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Former Thai prime ministers acquitted of abuse of power

[JURIST] A Bangkok court acquitted two former prime ministers and two police officers of abuse of power on Wednesday. Former prime ministers Somchai Wongsawat and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh were accused [AP report] of authorizing the police to use brutal force against an anti-government protest in 2008 when Somchai was prime minister and Chavalit was his deputy. More than 400 protesters were injured [Bangkok Post report], and two were killed. The court found that there was no conclusive evidence that police weapons caused the injuries and deaths. They also said that officials did not intend for the injuries and deaths to occur. Somchai and Chavalit could have served up to 10 years in prison if they had been found guilty.

Human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand. In June Thailand's parliament approved [JURIST report] legislation giving the military political influence. In April the king signed a military-backed constitution [JURIST report] into law. In January Thailand's National Reform Steering Committee proposed [JURIST report] a new law that Thai officials convicted of corruption involving more than 1 billion baht would be eligible for the death penalty. The Thailand Parliament unanimously approved [JURIST report] a controversial amendment to its Computer Crime Act of 2007 (CCA) in December, which rights groups fear will give the government unrestricted power to police the web and suppress criticism. In September Amnesty International released a report [JURIST report] detailing the prevalence of torture employed by Thai authorities and claiming the military government has led to a "culture of torture."

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