BANGKOK– Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime minister between 2008 and 2011, is to be charged with murder over the death of a taxi driver shot by soldiers during the 2010 Bangkok protests against his government.
The decision to charge the Eton and Oxford-educated Mr Abhisit marks the first attempt to hold anyone accountable for the violence of April and May 2010 that convulsed the Thai capital and resulted in at least 90 deaths.
Tarit Pengdith, the head of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) announced the murder charge against Mr Abhisit after consultations with police and prosecutors.
“The tripartite meeting has decided to charge former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban under article 288,” said Mr Tarit.
Article 288 is the murder statute in Thailand’s criminal code and can result in the death penalty or a life sentence.
Mr Abhisit, currently the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, has faced repeated calls for his prosecution ever since a Bangkok court ruled in September that taxi driver Phan Khamkong was shot dead in May 2010 by soldiers deployed to quell protests against his government.
Thousands of so-called red shirt opponents of Mr Abhisit’s unelected government took to Bangkok’s streets in spring 2010 in protest at the failure of Mr Abhisit to dissolve parliament and hold elections.
Mr Abhisit and his deputy premier Mr Suthep signed orders allowing the military to use live ammunition to break up the demonstrations.
Subsequent fire fights between the army and protesters left at least 90 people dead and around 2,000 injured.
Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep will be summoned for questioning and to hear the charges against them on December 12th.
Yet, political analysts doubt that the murder charge against the Newcastle-upon-Tyne-born Mr Abhisit will actually lead to him being convicted.
“This is just the beginning of a long process and there’s no guarantee that the courts will rule against Mr Abhisit,” Pitch Pongsawat, Professor of Political Science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told The Daily Telegraph.
Instead, it may be an attempt to pressure the Democrat Party into agreeing to the ruling Pheu Thai party’s plans to amend the constitution. “My gut feeling is that this is all about political negotiations behind the scenes,” said Professor Pitch.