Murder charges dismissed against former Thai PM Abhisit and former deputy Suthep

A Thai court on Thursday dismissed charges of murder and abuse of power against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (above) and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban over a deadly crackdown on opposition protests in 2010. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A Thai court on Thursday dismissed charges of murder and abuse of power against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (above) and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban over a deadly crackdown on opposition protests in 2010. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Thailand’s criminal court on Thursday dismissed murder charges against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban.

The charges were related to a military crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bangkok four years ago, where more than 90 people died and scores of others injured. Both men were helming the Democrat-led government then.

The charges were brought against them after court rulings that some protesters were killed and injured by soldiers trying to disperse them under the orders of the government.

The criminal court, in dismissing the cases on Thursday, said it did not have jurisdiction over the cases as they were both political office holders then. It said that the cases came under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions.

The ruling comes three months after the military toppled the Puea Thai party-led government in a coup. For some seven months prior to that, anti-Puea Thai protesters led by Suthep blocked Bangkok’s streets and sabotaged elections in a bid to force the government out.

The anti-Puea Thai movement was mostly supported by the country’s urban middle class and royalist elite. Puea Thai, in contrast, draws its support mostly from the rural sections of the populous north-eastern and northern part of the country, and won an overwhelming majority in the 2011 election.

Thailand’s ruling junta has since suppressed dissent and installed an appointed interim parliament, which voted junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to the post of premier earlier this month. National and local elections have been suspended for at least a year, as the interim administration undertakes nationwide reforms.

Suthep, who has become a monk, appeared in court on Thursday sporting a shaven head and dressed in orange robes .

tanhy@sph.com.sg