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Ex-Thai PM Charged With Murder Over 'Red Shirts' Crackdown

  • VOA News

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva attends a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, March 2, 2012.

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva attends a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, March 2, 2012.

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will face murder charges related to a military crackdown against protesters at a 2010 "Red Shirt" opposition rally.

The decision to charge Abhisit along with ex-Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban represents the first charges against government officials for the clashes that left more than 90 people dead.

Tarit Pengdith, the head of the Department of Special Investigation, said Thursday the two men, who are both now opposition lawmakers, will be charged under the murder provision of Thailand's criminal code.

"They ordered military forces to clash with people continually for many days, which injured people," he said. "They also approved of snipers, it is obviously shown that they had the intention to kill other people."

He said the decision was influenced by a recent court ruling that found the military was responsible for the death of taxi driver Phan Kamkong, who was shot during the anti-government protests.

Around 24 Red Shirt leaders have been charged with inciting violence, threatening government officials and terrorism during 10 weeks of protests that erupted in April 2010 in Bangkok.

The protests targeted the then-ruling Democrat party, which was swept from office earlier this year and replaced by the Red Shirt Pheu Thai party founded by exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is now prime minister.

Rights groups have criticized Thai security forces for using excessive and unnecessary lethal force to disperse the crowds, leading to rioting and arson attacks in what was some of the worst violence in recent Thai history.

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