Supreme Court whitewashes Abhisit, Suthep over deadly 2010 crackdown

The Supreme Court has acquitted Abhisit and Suthep of murder charges for authorising the violent military crackdown on anti-establishment red-shirt protesters in April and May 2010. Meanwhile, a former government investigator who dared to accuse the two of murder is now facing lawsuits.  

On 31 August 2017, the Supreme Court confirmed a previous ruling by the Court of Appeal and dismissed murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and Suthep Thaugsuban, his former deputy.

The two had been accused of murder by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) for authorising military and police officers to reclaim several venues in the Bangkok city centre from United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) demonstrators, the main red shirt faction, in April and May 2010.

More than 90 people died and over 2,000 people were injured during the subsequent military crackdown.

Following the Court of First Instance, the Appeal Court reasoned that the two authorised orders via the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), an agency formed to handle the 2010 red shirt protesters, with Suthep as Director, while they were still PM and Deputy PM.

As the two were then holding public posts, only the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has the authority to process the case and submit a case file to the Supreme Court.

In 2015, the NACC withdrew corruption allegations against the two and also against Gen Anupong Paochinda, the former Army Chief, and other military officers under his command for authorising the 2010 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. It was therefore reasonable for the CRES to authorise armed personnel to reclaim the demonstration venues in Bangkok.

On 9 June 2017, the Supreme Court accepted a lawsuit against Tharit Pengdit, former Director-General of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and three other persons.  

In 2012, the four pressed murder charges against Abhisit and Suthep for authorising the 2010 crackdown.

Abhisit and Suthep retaliated by accusing the four of corruption and propagating false accusations against them, claiming that the DSI did not have the authority to investigate the crackdown in the first place.

The Supreme Court’s ruling contradicts previous verdicts from the Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court, who dismissed the charges against the DSI officials.

The red-shirt protest in April 2010 (Photo by Noppakow Kongsuwan)