BANGKOK — Thailand’s national anti-graft body is finding it "difficult" to bring charges against those responsible for the deadly crackdown on protesters in 2010 because of security officers' role in the violence, a spokesperson said yesterday.
"When the prosecutors were compiling the case, they didn't say security officers were related to them [the crackdown deaths]," said Vicha Mahakhun, spokesperson of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). "But when the matters arrived in the court, the court says the deaths were caused by actions of the security officers."
Since there is evidence that points to the involvement of authorities, the NACC has to identify the exact individuals who gave the orders that led to those deaths, while also "giving fairness" to the security officers, Vicha explained.
"The autopsy shows so many twists to the story. We have to summon more witnesses in the cases related to the court inquests … which are the security officers," he said.
According to the NACC spokesman, the cases will be completed "by early this year."
Troops clash with protesters in Bangkok on 19 May 2010, the final day of the military crackdown.
The crackdown in 2010 came as a response to tens of thousands of Redshirt demonstrators who descended on the capital city and occupied Bangkok’s financial districts to demand a fresh election.
More than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the military operation that lasted from April to May 2010.
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, who authorised the crackdown, have claimed that shadowy "terrorists," not security forces, were responsible for the deaths.
However, court inquests over the recent years have identified military forces as responsible for many of the deaths caused by the crackdown, including a soldier who was reportedly killed in a "friendly fire" in April 2010.
The Division of Special Investigation (DSI) filed murder charges against Abhisit and Suthep for the deaths, but the Criminal Court threw out the case in August 2014 on the grounds that the former leaders should be charged with "abuse of power" instead of murder. The court also claimed that it had no jurisdiction over the case, passing responsibility over to the NACC.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned the ruling as a “serious setback for accountability efforts in Thailand” and “an affront to basic justice and international law.”
"We have not formally charged anyone," Vicha said.
Suthep and Abhisit at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on 28 July 2014.
Many families of the 2010 crackdown victims were upset by the ruling in August, and Redshirt activists have voiced concern that the prosecution of the two former Democrat Party leaders will be further delayed because of the NACC's alleged hostility to the Redshirt movement.
In contrast to the drawn-out inquiries into Abhisit and Suthep's role in the 2010 violence, the NACC has actively pursued corruption and abuse of power charges against Redshirt-allied politicians, such as former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Keeping up with the trend, Vicha confirmed yesterday that despite a lack of progress in the 2010 inquiry, a case has been formally filed against leading members of a former Redshirt-backed government for cracking down on Yellowshirt demonstrators in 2008 with tear gas and alleged police beatings.
According to the NACC, former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawasdi and his deputy at the time abused their power by ordering riot police to clear Yellowshirt protesters from the streets around the Parliament building. Two people were killed and many injured in the operation.
"We have already filed the case with the Supreme Court's Division for Holders of Political Office," Vicha said.