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Former Thai premier discusses murder charge, 2010 riots

Posted by Rattana_S On October - 31 - 2013

Former Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva has vowed to fight a murder charge in connection with his order to disperse protesters during the 2010 anti-government demonstrations.

But the leader of the now-opposition Democrat Party has spoken out against the current government’s proposed amnesty for all political crimes from 2006 to August of this year.

That amnesty would also absolve his predecessor and political opponent Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living overseas since 2008to avoid a jail term on an abuse-of-power conviction.

Thaksin played a leading role from abroad in the 2010 protests, which left a total of 92 dead, mostly from among his followers.

Abhisit, 49, appeared before the attorney general’s office Thursday to hear the charges, along with his former deputy and co-accused Suthep Thaugsuban.

He spoke to dpa the evening before about his indictment, the 2010 clashes, and Thailand’s political scene.

Question: Do you accept your indictment?

Answer: I think we should all be under the law, and although I feel there have been abuses of power by the Department of Special Investigation and (in) the attorney general’s decision, I will take them to court for this. That is how we should be settling disputes about what is right and wrong.

Question: What do you think of the charges?

Answer: The strange thing is that they are taking me and Suthep to court in personal capacities on ordinary murder charges, claiming that it had nothing to do with the fact that we were officials who were tasked with keeping order.

Question: What do you think is behind this approach?

Answer: If they were to charge me with abuse of power, then the Department of Special Investigation (on whose investigation the attorney general’s decision was based) would not have the power to investigate me. The case would instead have to go to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is an independent body under the constitution.

Question: You are charged with giving orders that led to murder. Do you deny the charge?

Answer: I maintain that throughout the period of trouble Khun (Mr) Suthep and I had made our policies clear of trying to avoid losses, and that live ammunition was used only after soldiers, police and ordinary people were attacked by people who were armed, and Suthep’s order to use live ammunition had clear rules as to under what circumstances and how this would be used.

Question: Do you regret what happened in 2010?

Answer: We all regret the losses that happened which is why we are the ones who are taking the stance that there should be no amnesty for such crimes, and whoever should be held accountable for this should go through the legal process.

Question: Wouldn’t your case set a good precedent for ending Thailand’s culture of impunity for politicians?

Answer: You are absolutely right. The country needs to prove to itself that we are going to move beyond this culture of impunity, which is why we oppose the amnesty bill. As to who should be held accountable for the events of 2010, for us I think the best people to determine that would be the courts. We can’t cut short the process. It (an amnesty) would make people think, Why is the government so keen on making sure the truth never comes out? After all the propaganda of trying to label Suthep and me as murderers, why not press on?

Question: You and Thaksin are often seen as being opposite poles in Thai politics. What does Thaksin represent to you, politically, and what do you represent?

Answer: I represent liberal democratic values, which means respect for human rights, a belief that a healthy democracy requires certain standards of governance and attitudes and culture to support a truly liberal and democratic society. I’m not sure that Thaksin represents anything politically. He is not about principles. He is about business and political interests.

Question: And yet Thaksin’s parties and policies have won every election since 2001. Why?

Answer: The political machinery that he has created has produced policies that have resonated with the people. I don’t deny that.

Question: Are liberal democratic principles enough to win an election?

Answer: You have to admit that politics in the past two decades has moved towards bread-and-butter issues rather than principles. I think we now offer clear alternative plans on how we handle rice, how we handle agriculture, and government investments. I think we can chip away at their lead.

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