Abhisit charges a step toward ending Thai culture of impunity | Connect Asia

Abhisit charges a step toward ending Thai culture of impunity

Abhisit charges a step toward ending Thai culture of impunity

Updated 7 December 2012, 16:36 AEDT

Thai affairs expert Pavin Chachavalpongpun says murder charges against former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy will help combat the culture of impunity in Thailand.

Mr Vejjajiva is is being charged for the death of a taxi driver who was shot by the Thai military during political unrest in 2010.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Kyoto University's Centre for Southeast Asian Studies

PAVIN: Well, I think the charges have been made against Abhiist. We have to wait and see what will happen on the 12th. December. I think this is courageous on the part of the Department of Special Investigation, if he would be charged and I mean he already charged, but if he would be convicted, I mean what would happen. This would be the first time that a politician would be convicted on a charge of killing other people and I think for me, the most important thing is this would help end the culture of impunity in Thailand.

EWART: But presumably, it would be very difficult to prove a case like this against the Prime Minister and against his Deputy and how significant is it that none of the military have so far been charged with anything?

PAVIN: Well, I think that the DSI said it clearly that the military would not be responsible at this point in time, They would look into who indeed instructed the killing of the people, of the demonstrator, so I think that is key.

Talking about evidence, I think yes, I have been gathering the evidence during the past few years and there's a lot of people coming out to give their testimony, including a number of foreign journalists who were at that spot when the Red Shirt gathered in May, 2010, so I've been talking about evidence, there are plenty of evidence out there.

EWART: Now, of course, already a number of the Red Shirt leaders who were involved in these disturbances back in 2010 and they are facing prosecution. They've been accusations up to now of double standards. Is the fact that the Prime Minister and the Deputy apparently are going to be charged in an attempt to redress the balance?

PAVIN: Yes, I think it could only be fair that the DSI have been accused in the past, of leaning a little bit closer to the establishment including the Democrat Party, the party where Abhisit Vejjajiva comes from when Abhisit was serving as Prime Minister. I think that it's only fair. But I do not want to look at it like that. I think this is about trying to find the culprit who killed up to 100 people. They have to be someone who got to be responsible. It has been happening in Thailand since 1923, 1929, 1992 and now, 2010, no one has been brought to justice. I hope that this will be the first time.

EWART: Is there a danger though, that there could be a political undercurrent to this. There is a suggestion that maybe the aim of the charges is to put pressure on the Democrat Party and Mr Abhisit said to agree to plans to amend the Constitution. And if the two things get caught up, what happened in 2010 and what's happening now, how do we achieve justice through that?

PAVIN: Well, let me explain, yes, it could be very dangerous. I think I would like to look at this two ways. One is from the perspective of the Red Shirt. I think this is a process that have been overdue. I think what the Red Shirt wanted mostly is to bring the culprit as we said said the instructor to justice and this is a part of reconciliation. We've been talking about reconciliation for so long now, but the country would only move forward if we only look back to recent past and to look back at recent past, you have to bring these people to justice.

I think this is quite positive from the perspective of the Red Shirt, but, on the otherhand, as you said, I think it seemed like the government of Yingluck have already proposed the idea of a broad amnesty in connection with the protests and many people believe that hoping to prepare the way for Yingluck's brother, former prime minister, Thaksin, to return to Thailand and this could be a pressure putting upon the Democrat Party to agree with this.

If this is true, then I think that justice would eventually be satisfied and I do not think that the conviction will go any further. We have to wait and see, as I said.

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