Abhisit on the BBC: Unfortunately, some people died
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Abhisit on the BBC: Unfortunately, some people died

Former Thai Prime Abhisit has been in London. He was interviewed by the BBC:


Below is a transcript that BP had adopted from Prachatai* although have made some corrections (please note the transcript it is not final):

Abhisit: Well I think everybody knows what happened, and we are the ones that said that the judicial process has to run its course so that there were inquests into the death of the protesters and stand (you know) people who were there and uh…there has to be accountability

BBC: And that includes you because you were the person in power when 90 people died in the protest

Abhisit: Of course we set up an independent commission in terms of fact finding and at the same time (you know) the police…and all the law enforcing organizations (sic) would have to get to work but the charges that are placing against me from so many people seem very far-fetched …

BBC:  Why are they far-fetched?  You were the person in power. You must have authorized the use of force in tearing down the protest camp.

Abhisit: But if you recall we had a situation basically with a group of people occupying the middle of a city and also had armed people infused within the protest. They were actually firing grenades, firing at people. We didn’t even go in to disperse the protest. What we did was to cordon off, set up check points. These check points were attacked. And there were fighting on the street and people….unfortunately some people died [BP: Not the best way to say this….]

BBC:  Well and almost everyone who died was by the hands of military gunfire

Abhisit:  That’s not the case.

BBC: Human Rights Watch did the most comprehensive investigation of the incident in 2010 said almost every death was caused by the military gunfire.

Abhisit: The most comprehensive account has been made by the independent truth and reconciliation commission. And as far as the charges are concerned, already about 20 cases have been the work of the protestors, or the armed elements.

BBC:  But that’s the least of the majority, we’re talking about 90 deaths. You would accept the majority of the death was caused by the military?

AbhisitNo, no [BP: Seriously? It is like with some red leaders who won’t accept that some of the red side/aligned with the reds were responsible for deaths]. Because so far we have had about 20 inquests. And only two so far have concluded that these people died by bullets that were used in the military. But you also have to remember that the protestors had already robbed some of the arms that were used by the military, and for this particularly [unintelligible], you have to know the charges first.

BBC: But you do accept that you’re responsible for some of the deaths. You do accept that?

Abhisit: No. The charge that’s being put against me, at the moment, is the death of a person who wasn’t even protesting. What happened was that a van was trying to crash through the barrier set up by the military. There were shots being fired. This person ran out to see what happened and unfortunately got caught.

BBC:  This happened to be the first cases of that has been investigated and I don’t think is indicative of all the cases that will be brought in the future.

Abhisit:  Sure. But to say that the government ordered the military to kill people, is not exactly what happened.

BBC:  You did authorize the use of live ammunition.

Abhisit:  We did authorize the use of live ammunition.

BBC: Do you regret that decision?

Abhisit: But how else do you fight people with arms?

BBC:  So you don’t regret the use of live ammunition?

Abhisit: I regret the losses of people [BP: Now back on message. Much better phrasing than the unfortunately, some people died]. But the instructions were clear as to how they could use the live ammunition, under which circumstances.

BBC: What were the circumstances?

Abhisit: The issue was ordered the Deputy PM, [BP: Suthep being thrown under the bus….] first of all it was self defense. It’s preventing possible losses to other people, and they must use it with extreme care. And if there’s a possibility that are using the arms against people who were somehow mixed with the crowd of people they should avoid it. And to say that this ordering meant that we’re ordering the killing of people. I think it’s unfair. And let me say this. I’ve been  around at a number of meetings, around the world, G-20 here somebody died because the police was trying to do their work. There had to be inquests. The death could be justified or not, according to the law, but I don’t see anywhere that the Prime Minister then has to take responsibility for any operations.

BBC: Mr. Abhisit, we are talking about the worst violent political incident your country saw for decades. The scale of what we’re talking about is considerable. And this is going to be the defining issue of your time in power.

Abhisit: Because this is the first time that we had protest with armed people being involved. If these were a peaceful protest, constitutional protest, legal protest, none of this wouldn’t have happened. If they didn’t have the black shirt people, with weapons, firing at people, firing at the police, firing at the military. None of the losses would have occurred.

BBC: How do you feel that this is going to be the defining issue of how people will remember your time in power?

Abhisit: I don’t think that’s the case. I think that a lot of people know full well what happened during 2009 and 2010. And the difference is this. As the government, we are the first – we have had a number of violent incidents in the past – that allows the police, the DSI, and the attorney general and the courts to work through this. And I will accept whatever verdict, even if it’s a death penalty, I will accept that. And I’m asking former PM [BP: A dig at Thaksin which I doubt Thaksin will take up] and members of this current government that they should do the same, because they’re always looking to to pass a bill to grant themselves amnesty. That’s all I ever ask. I’m willing to face the charges. I will fight. I will prove my innocence in the court, and if the court, for whatever reasons, passed the guilty verdict I will accept it.

BP: Abhisit was surprisingly very flustered under the tough questioning. He is usually so on message. Then again, this was not softball interview; it is the BBC in London. Having said, Abhisit has done Hard Talk before so he knows the style of questioning. For someone who normally excels at such interview, why was he so unprepared?

It is going to be hard to hold him legally responsible, but he was in complete denial mode….I am surprised he didn’t concede more.

[UPDATE: Added some emphasis in the transcript]

h/t to Bact