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Ex-Thai Prime Minister, 3 Others Acquitted of Charges in Fatal 2008 Protests

  • VOA News

Former Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat greets supporters as he arrives at the Supreme Court in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 2, 2017.

A former Thai prime minister has been acquitted in a case involving a deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2008.

Two people were killed and hundreds wounded when police used tear gas to remove so-called "Yellow Shirt" protesters from the grounds of the Thai parliament in Bangkok. Prosecutors charged Somchai Wongsawat, his then-deputy prime minister, Chavalat Yongchaiyudh, and two former police officials with abuse of power for ordering the operation.

But the Thai Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Somchai and his fellow defendants did not know the tear gas could cause serious or even fatal injuries. The quartet faced 10 years in prison each if they were convicted.

Somchai is the brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains popular among Thai's rural and urban poor even after his ouster in a military coup in 2006. His ouster triggered years of political turmoil and violent unrest as power changed between Bangkok's military-backed royalist elite, represented by the Yellow Shirts, and pro-Thaksin candidates backed by red shirt-wearing followers.

Thaksin's sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, gave her closing statement Tuesday in her criminal negligence trial involving her handling of a multi-billion dollar rice-buying scheme that backfired, sustaining over $1 billion in losses and leaving Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice.

Suffering the same fate as her brother, Yingluck was removed from office in a 2014 military coup. She also faces 10 years in prison over the rice-buying scheme. The verdict in her trial will be issued on August 25.

Thaksin himself has lived in exile since 2008 to avoid corruption charges brought against him.

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