Ex-Thai PM faces indictment over protest crackdown
Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrives at the justice ministry on December 13, 2012
The opposition slammed the move as an attempt to pressure it to support a controversial amnesty bill that could allow fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to return from self-imposed exile.
About 90 people died and nearly 1,900 were wounded in a series of street clashes in 2010 between mostly unarmed "Red Shirt" demonstrators and security forces firing live rounds in central Bangkok.
Abhisit, who is now the opposition leader, and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban ordered security forces to reclaim areas of the capital and allowed authorities to use arms, said Nanthasak Poonsuk, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
"Evidence shows that their orders caused others to carry out murder and attempted murder as charged," Nanthasak told reporters.
The case will now be referred to a criminal court which will decide whether to put the pair on trial.
Oxford-educated Abhisit -- who was formally charged in December -- insists he is innocent and has described the accusations against him as politically motivated.
Thailand has been racked by political turmoil since a coup by royalist generals in 2006 ousted the Red Shirts' hero Thaksin.
In the 2010 protests, the Red Shirts were demanding immediate elections, saying Abhisit's government took office undemocratically in 2008 through a parliamentary vote after a court stripped Thaksin's allies of power.
Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators occupied parts of central Bangkok for weeks before the army ended the standoff.
Polls in 2011 brought Thaksin's Red Shirt-backed Puea Thai party to power with his sister Yingluck Shinawatra now prime minister.
The murder case is expected to be referred to a court soon but Abhisit and Suthep enjoy immunity while parliament is in session because they are lawmakers, prosecutors said.
The attorney general's office denied there was any link between the decision to prosecute and a move by Thaksin's party to seek parliamentary approval for legislation granting an amnesty for politically related crimes.
"We're an independent organisation which is not attached to the prime minister or the prime minister's office. There's no political interference," said another spokesman for the attorney general's office, Watcharin Panurat.
The planned bill is strongly opposed by Abhisit's Democrat Party, which fears it will open the door to Thaksin's return.
"Both Abhisit and Suthep will fight the case through the justice system and are ready to prove their innocence," said party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.
"The government should not issue an amnesty bill and not seek to use this case to pressure the Democrat Party because we will not accept this bill and will fight both inside and outside parliament," he told AFP.
Some observers doubt Abhisit will go to prison given his links to the Thai elite.
In December, the trial began of 24 Red Shirt leaders on terrorism charges related to their roles in the 2010 violence.
Proceedings against the top Red Shirts -- several of whom are lawmakers -- will likely drag on for years, with counsel on both sides calling several hundred witness.
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