NACC says Suthep, Abhisit not guilty of April-May 2010 political violence

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has concluded that Abhisit Vejjajiva, former Democrat Party Prime Minister, and Suthep Thaugsuban, his former Deputy, are not guilty for ordering the violent military crackdown on the anti-establishment red-shirt protesters during the April-May 2010 political violence.  

Sansern Poljieak, the Secretary-General of the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), on Tuesday, 29 December 2015, announced that the NACC has reached a resolution to withdraw corruption and malfeasance allegations against Abhisit, Suthep, Gen Anupong Paochinda, the former Army Chief, and other military officers under his command.

Those three and others were accused of malfeasance for authorising military and police officers to reclaim several venues in Bangkok city centre from the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) demonstrators, the main red shirt faction, between April-May 2010. More than 90 people died and over 2,000 people were injured during the military crackdown on red shirt protesters.

The NACC concluded that the 2010 red shirt protest was not peaceful and that there were armed militants among the demonstrators. Therefore, the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), an agency formed to handle the 2010 red shirt protesters with Suthep as Director, had to authorise armed personnel to reclaim the demonstration venues in Bangkok.

Although the military and police officers had to carry arms to protect themselves during the crackdown in accordance with ‘international standards’, if it is proven later that the officers used weapons ‘unnecessarily’ which resulted in the deaths of demonstrators, the officers and their commanders shall be charged on an ‘individual basis’.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will carry out investigations of military officers who allegedly used weapons ‘unnecessarily’ which resulted in loss of life, NACC added.  

As for the allegation that Abhisit, Suthep, and Gen Anupong did not reconsider and cancel the CRES order as it was causing a high death toll during the 2010 crackdown, the NACC dismissed the allegation and concluded that the three did resort to other measures between 14-19 May 2010 to install military checkpoints to encircle and prevent more red shirt protesters from entering the city centre and gave protesters notice before they reclaimed the areas.

In the four years after the April-May 2010 crackdown, the Criminal Court has ruled on 30 deaths in a total of 20 cases concerning those killed in the massacre. According to the rulings, 18 out of the 30 were killed by bullets coming from the military. These include Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photo-journalist, Kunakorn Srisuwan, a 13-year-old child, Pan Kamkong, a red-shirt taxi driver, and many others. However, none of the inquests specified the individual army officers responsible for the deaths.

“The failure of successive Thai governments to prosecute anyone from the military for the 2010 political violence sends a stark message of impunity,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “Fully five years on, commanders who gave the orders to soldiers and those who pulled the triggers all remain untouchable.”

Human Rights Watch’s May 2011 report, “Descent into Chaos: Thailand’s 2010 Red Shirt Protests and the Government Crackdown,” documented that excessive and unnecessary force by the military caused many deaths and injuries during the 2010 political confrontations.

The high number of casualties – including unarmed demonstrators, volunteer medics and first responders, reporters, photographers, and bystanders – resulted in part from the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed by the military. Similar findings were presented in September 2012 by the independent Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT), which recommended the authorities “address legal violations by all parties through the justice system, which must be fair and impartial.”