BANGKOK – Thai police today arrested at least two people for distributing leaflets demanding renewed legal action against ex-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then deputy for their roles in a 2010 protest crackdown.
Two unnamed people – believed to be relatives of victims of the crackdown four years ago – were charged with defamation after dropping the leaflets onto the street near a busy overground train station in Bangkok, Deputy National Police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told AFP.
“They violated laws in front of police officers,” he said, adding they were charged with defamation by publication, a criminal offence which carries a maximum two-year jail term and a hefty fine in Thailand.
Murder charges against Abhisit and his then number two Suthep Thaugsuban linked to the bloody crackdown on rival “Red Shirt” supporters, were unexpectedly dropped last Thursday after a criminal court in the capital said it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.
Relatives have vowed to press ahead with their campaign for justice for the deceased – who include a nurse who was shot dead on the grounds of a Buddhist temple as she treated the wounded.
Local media reports said three people were arrested in total today, including the mother of the dead nurse.
Scores of demonstrators died under Abhisit’s establishment-backed leadership in street clashes between mostly unarmed Red Shirts loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and security forces firing live rounds in Bangkok.
Dismissing the murder charges, a criminal court last week said it was unable to rule on the case because the pair held public office at the time and acted under an emergency decree.
But it indicated that the Supreme Court had the authority to hear the charges.
The ruling comes three months after the military seized power from Abhisit’s political opponents in a bloodless coup.
No member of the armed forces has been prosecuted in connection with the deaths.
Critics accuse Thailand’s courts of being politically influenced, particularly in favour of the Bangkok-based elite and their backers in the army.
Abhisit and Suthep – who went on to lead months of street protests against Abhisit’s successor Yingluck Shinawatra – denied the charges that they deliberately issued orders that resulted in murder by security forces.
The unrest was the most deadly violence in a tumultuous near-decade in Thailand, sparked by the toppling of Thaksin – the one-time policeman-turned telecoms billionaire – from the prime minister’s office in another military coup in 2006.
This time around, in just over 100 days since it grabbed power from the Shinawatra-allied government, the army has smothered dissent, hauling in anti-coup protesters and briefly detaining leaders of the Red Shirt movement.
The junta has refused to lift martial law across the country.