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Former Thai PM on murder charge

Date

Lindsay Murdoch

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva Photo: Reuters

BANGKOK: Political tensions are rising again in Thailand after authorities said they would charge the former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with murder for his role in a crackdown on anti-government protests in 2010.

Authorities said Mr Abhisit would be questioned and charged next week about the shooting of a taxi driver by soldiers during a period of unrest that left 90 people dead and 1800 injured - Thailand's worst political violence in decades.

Mr Abhisit, who was prime minister at the time, has insisted soldiers were responding to attacks during ''red shirt'' rallies, where supporters of the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra brought parts of Bangkok to a standstill.

On Friday he said he is ready to go to court to prove his innocence and would report to authorities to acknowledge the murder charge. He said he was performing his duty as prime minister in 2010 in maintaining peace and order and had acted within the law when he took tough action against up to 100,000 demonstrators.

The director of Thailand's Department of Special Investigation, Tharit Pengdit, said Mr Abhisit had issued ''orders that caused the deaths of many people''.

Mr Abhisit would be charged with the killing of Phan Khamkong, whose case is one of the first to reach the courts, he said.

''Even though there was loss of life the operations were not stopped and other methods were not implemented,'' Mr Tharit said.

A spokesman for Mr Abhisit's Democrat Party, said the charge was a ''politically motivated'' attempt to ''distort the judicial system''.

If found guilty, Mr Abhisit could face the death penalty. Authorities said they also plan to charge Mr Abhisit's former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban with murder.

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