A criminal court in Thailand issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for ousted [JURIST report] prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on charges of terrorism. Thaksin is accused of involvement in the the recent political violence [JURIST news archive] in Bangkok, which left more than 80 dead and more than 1,000 injured. Thaksin has been seen as the figurehead of the pro-democracy protesters, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai], also known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder]. The red shirts' protests in the capital's central commercial district paralyzed the country for the past two months, and Thaksin has been repeatedly accused of organizing and financing the campaign. The former prime minster was removed from power in 2006 by a military coup and has been living abroad in Cambodia where the government has refused to extradite [JURIST report] him to Thailand for criminal prosecution. The Thai government hopes that the official charge of terrorism will make foreign governments more malleable in their extradition policies.
The Thai government's response to the recent conflict in Bangkok has been criticized by international human rights organizations. Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] expressed concern [JURIST report] about the treatment of anti-government protesters detained during the Bangkok demonstrations. The organization chided the Thai government for enacting a "draconian" emergency decree giving Thai security forces broad power to arrest individuals without formal charges and hold them in secret detention. The decree, which lacks judicial oversight, also prevents detainees from having access to legal counsel or family members. Earlier this month, a Thai court sentenced 27 protesters to six months in prison for violating the emergency decree. Under the strict security law [JURIST report] adopted in anticipation of the protests, the red shirts initially faced up to a year in prison, but their confessions allowed the district court to commute their sentences [AFP report]. During their protests, the red shirts demanded that Prime Minster Vejjajiva Abhisit resign and called for new elections. The Thai government implemented a curfew [JURIST report] in Bangkok and other areas of the country last week in response to violence that erupted when the leader of the red shirts announced an end to the protests. The curfew remains in effect as the government tries to maintain order.