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Thailand ex-PM charged with murder in aftermath of Bangkok protests

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) [official website, in Thai] on Thursday announced that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will be charged with murder for his role in the 2010 Thai military crackdown [TIME backgrounder] on anti-government protests that left more than 90 people dead and about 1,800 injured in Bangkok. In particular, Abhisit may have been liable [AP report] for the death of a civilian cab driver because he allowed troops enforcing the crackdown to use live ammunition against demonstrators. The DSI explained that other factors have contributed to the decision to charge the country's former leader, including the military's continued use of force over an extended period of time and the killing of civilians without resorting to a lesser means of controlling protesters. Abhisit and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, the man who established the security agencies to contain the protests, are expected to be summoned and formally charged on December 12.

Thailand's political system has been unstable since the 2006 military coup [AHRC backgrounder, PDF] by the Royal Thai Army against then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile], and the Bangkok crackdown has only exacerbated the instability. Following democratic party defeats in 2011, Abhisit resigned [Bangkok Post report] as prime minister. A month before his departure, he rejected a proposal [JURIST report] by the opposition party seeking a referendum to grant amnesty to those involved in the 2006 military coup. In February 2011, seven leaders of Thailand's "red-shirt" pro-democracy movement [BBC backgrounder], another group that opposes the country's current leadership, were released on bail [JURIST report] after being arrested on terrorism charges stemming from their involvement in the Bangkok protests. Earlier in the year, members of the movement also petitioned [JURIST report] the International Criminal Court [official website] to launch a preliminary investigation into whether the government committed crimes against humanity during those protests.

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