Families of 2010 Crackdown Victims Demand Progress From NACC

Redshirt demonstrators carry coffins of protesters killed in the crackdown by the military in Bangkok, 11 April 2010.

BANGKOK — Family members of victims killed in the 2010 crackdown on Redshirt demonstrators have submitted a letter of protest to Thailand’s anti-graft agency for failing to take legal action against those responsible for the military operation.

In August 2014, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) was granted jurisdiction over legal charges filed against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban for authorizing the crackdown, which led to more than 90 fatalities, mostly civilians.

However, the NACC has yet to formally take up the case in the court. Abhisit and Suthep were originally charged with murder by the Division of Special Investigation (DSI) in 2010, but the Criminal Court threw out the case  in August on the grounds that the former leaders should be charged with "abuse of power" by the NACC instead.

Nattapat Akhart, the younger brother of a volunteer medic shot dead by soldiers in the crackdown, submitted a letter of protest to the NACC today on behalf of families of other victims.  

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Redshirt demonstrators carry coffins of protesters killed in the crackdown by the military in Bangkok, 11 April 2010.

Speaking to reporters, he said that it's been almost five years since the crackdown, yet there has been no progress on the case. He added that he has never been contacted by the NACC to provide any evidence.

He also compared the NACC’s sluggish pace concerning the 2010 crackdown case to its swift prosecution of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for alleged dereliction of duty that led to corruption in her administration’s rice-pledging scheme.

The NACC brought the case before the junta-appointed interim parliament in January, which voted to retroactively impeach Yingluck and ban her from politics for five years.

"The NACC worked so fast. In one and half years the NACC punished her with both disciplinary and legal actions," Nattapat said. "I am not here today because of Ms. Yingluck. I am here today for my own business. If the NACC wants to be quick and serious, there has to be some progress already."

The 2010 crackdown was an effort to disperse the tens of thousands of Redshirt demonstrators that had descended on the capital city and occupied Bangkok’s financial districts to demand a fresh election. 

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A Redshirt demonstrator sits atop one of armored vehicles left behind by the military after a failed crackdown on the protesters on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok, 11 April 2010

Troops were first sent to break up the protests on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on 10 April 2010, but were unsuccessful. Skirmishes between the military and armed militants allied to the protesters erupted in May, turning parts of Bangkok into a warzone. The military launched a final push that ended the protests on 19 May 2010.

The violence claimed the lives of more than 90 people, including demonstrators, soldiers, rescue workers, bystanders, and two foreign journalists. More than 1,000 people were also injured in the crackdown. 

Court inquests in recent years have identified military forces as responsible for many of the deaths, such as an incident in which soldiers shot and killed six people, including Nattapat's sister, at a Buddhist temple in central Bangkok on 19 May 2010.

"I want to know where my case is. It's still in a black hole,” Nattapat said. “Why isn't the NACC moving quickly like other cases?"

Last month, NACC spokesperson Vicha Mahakhun told reporters that the Commission is struggling with the 2010 crackdown case because it is difficult to identify the exact individuals whose orders led to deaths.

"The autopsy shows so many twists to the story. We have to summon more witnesses in the cases related to the court inquests," he said. 

Vicha also confirmed in January 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.  

 

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