The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has charged Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban for authorising the killing of anti-government protesters during the 2010 unrest in Bangkok.
DSI chief Tarit Pengdith announced the joint decision of a tripartite team of investigators from the DSI, police and prosecutors at a meeting Thursday.
The decision marks the first charges against members of the Abhisit administration over deaths during the mass rallies in Bangkok.
Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut dismissed the charges against Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep, saying they represented abuse of state authorities to persecute political rivals.
Mr Tarit said the meeting decided to lay charges against Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep under Sections 59, 83, 84 and 288 of the Criminal Code, based on a Criminal Court ruling on the death of a taxi driver during the 2010 political unrest.
Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep will be called in on Wednesday to acknowledge the charges.
The court ruled on Sept 17 that the taxi driver, 44-year-old Phan Khamkong from Yasothon province, was killed by security forces near the Ratchaprarop Airport Link station on the night of May 14, 2010.
Soldiers opened fire to stop a suspicious van that drove into a security area while Phan was walking nearby. The court said Phan was killed by a high-velocity bullet used in war weapons.
Mr Abhisit was prime minister and Mr Suthep was deputy prime minister and director of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) in charge of the red-shirt protest crackdown at the time.
Mr Tarit said yesterday the tripartite meeting based its decision on the court ruling as well as evidence from further investigations conducted by the DSI including CRES's orders for security forces to retake areas occupied by the protesters, to use firearms and deploy snipers to target protesters.
The orders were issued in writing by Mr Suthep who cited instructions of then premier Mr Abhisit, Mr Tarit said.
Most importantly, Mr Tarit said, the pair failed to stop issuing orders to quell the protests when people were killed as a result of the crackdown orders. Their actions could be construed as having the intention to kill others, Mr Tarit said.
However, the court did not specify who among the soldiers fired the fatal shots. Moreover, Section 70 of the Criminal Code states that those who act on the orders of their commanders are protected from prosecution.
No charges would be brought against the soldiers who were acting under CRES's instructions, the DSI chief said.
Mr Tarit said the DSI has sent a letter asking Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep to report to the DSI to answer the charges on Dec 12.
After acknowledging the charges, the pair will be released without being held in detention. This practice is in line with the Special Investigation Act as the two were formerly holders of high-level political positions, he said.
Mr Tarit said the pair was required to report to the DSI by Dec 20 because after that date they would be protected by parliamentary immunity. Parliament is reconvening the next day.
He denied the DSI was prosecuting Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep at the behest of government politicians. He said both the government at the time and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) should be held responsible for the violence.
The DSI had taken legal action against hardcore red-shirt protesters. It has filed 213 legal cases against red shirts, including 64 cases of terrorism and sabotage and 62 cases of arson, while 295 people on the UDD side have been arrested and prosecuted.
The Democrats' Mr Chavanond said the case has been trumped up to pressure the opposition into supporting the government's reconciliation policy.
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Writer: King-Oua Laohong and Manop Thip-Osod