DSI chief defends murder charge

Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith on Friday defended the DSI's decision to lay murder charges against former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban in connection with the 2010 military crackdown on red-shirt protests.

Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at the Department of Special Investigation office Thursday afternoon amid tight police security. The former prime minister and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have been charged with murder by the DSI. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

He also set up an inquiry to find out who was responsible for leaking a photograph that showed Mr Abhisit being fingerprinted on Thursday in a supposedly closed room.

He conceded it might be difficult to find the culprit as there were many people in the room, including Mr Abhisit's and Mr Suthep's staff, who were taking pictures with their mobile phones.

Mr Abhisit criticised the DSI for prejudging the case against him and Mr Suthep, saying the case was politically motivated.

He also demanded the DSI chief act on the leak of the photo as it had violated the rights of the accused.

Mr Tarit said the DSI had taken every proper step in the case, noting that the accused have the right to file complaints as they see fit.

Given that both Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep were holders of high office, the DSI would not counter any arguments by the two but would continue doing its duty, Mr Tarit said, adding that the charges against them carry severe penalties.

He said the pair had not yet violated conditions for not being arrested. However, they have been orderd not to flee or tamper with evidence.
On Thursday, the two murder suspects refused to sign documents accepting the conditions.
The conditions prohibit them from leaving the country without approval from investigators; from meddling with evidence; obstructing the investigation into the case; or doing anything which could cause serious damage.

Red-shirt protesters hold up pictures of some of those killed during a crackdown on anti-government rallies two years ago as former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugbusan (not pictured) appear at the Department of Special Investigation. (AFP Photo)

They do not need to seek permission before travelling abroad, but the DSI will constantly monitor their movements, Mr Tarit said.

He added the indictment was legally valid because it was co-signed by Panupong Chotisin, deputy director-general of the Office of the Attorney General's special litigation department.

"I am innocent and deny the charges," Mr Abhisit told reporters after he and Suthep emerged from four and a half hours of questioning by investigators on Thursday.

The two men also refused to sign documents accepting conditions for not being arrested.

The murder charges relate to the the death of a taxi driver from Yasothon.

Earlier, the Criminal Court ruled the driver was killed by bullets fired by soldiers taking part in the military crackdown on United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters in May 2010.

A member of the Democrat Party's legal team said that under Section 68 of the Criminal Code, Mr Abhisit and Suthep were not at fault as they were performing their duty as state officials to stop illegal violence taking place in the country at the time.

Under Section 200 of the code, Mr Tarit, as chief investigator in the case, was at fault for bringing false charges against the two and he could be liable for life imprisonment, the lawyer said.

The conditions Mr Abhisit and Suthep refused to accept for not being arrested by the DSI prohibit them from leaving the country without approval from investigators; from meddling with evidence; obstructing the investigation into the case; or doing anything which could cause serious damage.

Both insisted they would be good citizens and would not attempt to flee.

"I will not run away," said Mr Abhisit. "I am not a coward".

He said investigators said they were not charging him as a prime minister. But when they explained the case to him,they said he had committed wrongdoing by authorising the killing in his capacity as prime minister.

He also said the DSI had failed to take into account a court ruling that the 2010 political rallies were illegal.

Mr Abhisit said the DSI had given him 45 days to provide extra testimony.

After that, the DSI would forward the case to the prosecutor to decide whether to lay indictments.

Related search: Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban, murder, protests, DSI

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