The Bangkok Post:
It is possible that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban could be charged with murder in connection with the crackdown on red-shirt protesters in April-and May 2010 as a consequence of today’s ruling by the Criminal Court, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengit said on Monday.
The Criminal Court ruled on Monday that Phan Khamkong, a taxi driver from Yasothon, was shot and killed by on May 15, 2010 by troops acting on orders issued by the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES).
Mr Suthep was CRES director at the time.
The DSI chief said today’s ruling would be a precedent for the courts to proceed with the 35 other cases of death arising from the 2010 riots.
He said it was possible for Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep to be charged with premeditated murder under Articles 288 and 289 of the Criminal Code because they were ultimately responsible for ordering the military to quell the riots.
The soldiers who honestly performed their duty were entitled to protection by Article 70 of the Criminal Code.
The Bangkok Post in an editorial entitled “DSI should widen probe”:
The ex-premier and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban testified about the crisis of the red-shirt protests, and how they responded. The ostensible reason they were summoned to the DSI was to assist in the investigation into the 91 deaths in April and May of 2010. But that probe is beginning to look decidedly unfair and even biased.
It takes years and many high-profile cases to build up a reputation as an honest defender of justice and the law. The entire reputation can be ruined almost overnight. It is disheartening, then, to see the DSI apparently swayed by politics. During Mr Abhisit’s time as head of government, DSI chief Tarit Pengdith was accused of being pro-government. Today, under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, he faces the same criticism. There appears to be merit in these charges.
Other DSI actions must also be noted as pertinent. Mr Tarit has engaged in a public war of words with army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha over whether the army killed red shirts, but the public has seen no serious investigation of whether red shirts killed security forces. Police, not the DSI, have brought charges against red-shirt leaders.
Bringing justice to power is a worthy goal of the DSI, indeed of any investigative force. On the other hand, unfair investigations, or even tilts that seem to favour those in power, can only damage the respect for both justice in general, and the DSI. Mr Tarit risks casting the DSI in a bad light unless he quickly expands his investigation into the 2010 events.
BP: Surely the question of the biased of DSI was settled in 2010. Back in 2010, Tharit was focused on putting the red shirts in jail and when they were released getting their bail revoked – see here and here – with less attention on the role of the military, let alone Abhisit and Suthep. Now, he has changed to going after Abhisit and Suthep and to a lesser extent the military. Abhisit and Suthep have been questioned and now from the article there is talk of charges, but they have not been jailed.*
Obviously, there are always exceptions and this is not to say that there should never be any prosecutions. A balance needs to be struck. We had the coup and an entire investigative body set up just to investigate Thaksin, or more accurately find a way to put him in jail and take his assets. Should subsequent governments do the same? How much attention should they focus on trying to jail the previous government? It is one thing to do it for political reasons without throwing large numbers in jail. Do we want to go down the Filipino route of trying to throw the previous government in jail every time there is a change in government?
*BP seriously doubts that either Abhisit and Suthep or any of the establishment backers are in danger of spending a night in jail so to that extent we are not at the same situation we were in 2010 and are unlikely to ever get there….