News / Asia

    Former Thai PM Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charges

    Riot policemen stand guard outside the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok, December 13, 2012.
    Riot policemen stand guard outside the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in Bangkok, December 13, 2012.
    Ron Corben
    Thailand's former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been interrogated by Justice Ministry special investigation officers. He is charged in the death of a taxi driver by security forces when in power during the 2010 crackdown against anti-government protesters. The case, in which Abhisit has pleaded not guilty, further highlights deep political divisions in the country.
     
    Both Abhisit and his former party's leader Suthep Thaugsuban said they are ready to face the courts.
     
    Opposition supporters allege the charges are part of efforts to pressure Abhisit to accept a general amnesty for the death and injury toll from the clashes that left more than 90 people dead and hundreds injured in April and May of 2010.
     
    But according to Panitan Wattanayagorn, a former spokesman during the Abhisit government, the governing Pheu Thai Party backers have welcomed the legal moves.
     
    “The Pheu Thai supporters wanted the past administrator to be prosecuted and they are very happy in the end are now moving forward. They [Pheu Thai politicians] also have their own cases in court and they also have to fight charges also," said Panitan. "By the same issue they feel the opposite [to the Abhisit supporters].”

    Analysts said the legal moves appear to be part of efforts to reach agreement through a general amnesty to enable another former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, back into Thailand.
     
    Thaksin has backing from the largely urban working class and in rural areas and is supported by the so-called Red Shirts movement.
     
    He remains overseas to avoid a two-year jail sentence for corruption but maintains a regular presence in the Thai media and is a close adviser to the current prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, his younger sister.
     
    Opposing Thaksin has been the urban elite and close supporters of the Thai monarchy.
     
    “My initial reaction was that this was a little bit of revenge, possibly pushed by the Red Shirts, who really smarted a lot about the way Abhisit had them branded as terrorists," said Chris Baker, a long-time author and commentator on Thai politics and business. "But rumors that there is some kind of bargaining going on in the background all the time to find a position where they can negotiate somehow for Thaksin’s return and all of this can be part of this.”
     
    Efforts at reconciliation between the competing power groups have failed to bridge the gap, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University. But Thitinan said the filing of charges against Abhisit marks a new threshold in Thai politics.
     
    “This is a threshold being crossed with the charges against Abhisit and Suthep. Normally, Thai government leaders would not be charged for having cracked down on protesters," said Thitinan. "So the sense of impunity, invincibility, is being challenged here and it sets a precedent.”
     
    Analysts expect the legal process in the case of the former prime minister to be drawn out before a final verdict amid the on-going legal battles over the events of April and May 2010. Meanwhile several Red Shirt activists remain in prison, with others rallying outside the court calling for justice in the deaths of protesters during the crackdown.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora