Terrorism to insurrection: criminal cases in Thai politics

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BANGKOK: In Thailand, where ex-premier Abhisit Vejjajiva was indicted for murder Thursday, many key political figures have fallen foul of the country’s legal system.

Here is a summary of the main criminal cases involving key figures in the country’s recent turbulent history.

THE DEMOCRATS—IN POWER FROM 2008 TO 2011

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban face a murder charge over a deadly military crackdown on mass opposition “Red Shirt” protests in 2010, which were in support of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.


More than 90 people were killed and some 1,900 injured during the rallies against the government led by Abhisit’s Democrat Party, which is now in opposition.

Suthep is accused of ordering the use of lethal force by soldiers to break up the rallies and was also due to appear to be indicted Thursday.

But the fiery former MP is currently leading protests in Bangkok against the elected premier Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, and his legal team requested the court process be delayed.

Suthep has an arrest warrant issued for him in connection to the present rallies for insurrection, for which he could face the death penalty.

He has called on his supporters to protect him if the police attempt to arrest him.

British-born Abhisit denied the charges and was freed after posting bail of 1.8 million baht ($56,000), his lawyer said.

THAKSIN SHINAWATRA—IN POWER FROM 2001 TO 2006

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is beloved by the rural poor for his ambitious social programs, was overthrown in September 2006 by royalist generals.

A committee appointed by the military junta that ruled Thailand after the coup froze his 76-billion-baht fortune (around $2.2 billion).

The money represents most of the profits his family earned when they sold his Shin Corp. telecoms empire in a controversial January 2006 deal for which he paid no tax.

The policeman-turned-billionaire, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, was sentenced in absentia in October 2008 to two years in prison for financial wrongdoing over a land deal involving his then wife.

In 2010 the Supreme Court confiscated more than half of Thaksin’s fortune—some $1.4 billion—after finding him guilty of abuse of power over the Shin Corp. deal.

The former premier faces further abuse of power and financial wrongdoing charges.

An arrest warrant was also issued against him for terrorism in connection to 2010 protests by his “Red Shirt” supporters, but the charge has since been dropped.

THE RED SHIRTS

This pro-Thaksin movement brought more than 100,000 people onto the streets in 2010, paralyzing the center of Bangkok for some two months before an army assault ended the standoff.

Twenty four Red Shirt leaders stand accused of terrorism for their role in the protests of 2010.

The judicial code sanctions the death penalty if they are found guilty on those charges, while some of the group also face a variety of other prosecutions.

Most of the group have been bailed, but some remain detained.

The terrorism trial is expected to last for years as the defendants’ legal teams file multiple appeals.

Several of the accused were MPs until Yingluck called a snap election this week.

Lawmakers normally enjoy immunity from prosecution during parliamentary sessions.

THE YELLOW SHIRTS

A force to be reckoned with in Thailand’s colour-coded street protests, debilitating protests by the Yellows helped spur the military coup that toppled Thaksin.

Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the ultra royalist yellow movement, was convicted of defaming Thaksin and handed a six-month suspended jail sentence.

In February 2012, the Criminal Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for corporate fraud in a case dating back to the mid-1990s. He was released on bail pending an appeal.

The media mogul was convicted of insulting the monarchy in October 2013 under Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws for quoting a speech by a Red Shirt activist — who was jailed for 15 years for the original remarks. He was bailed.

Sondhi and dozens of other Yellow Shirts also face terrorism charges over the occupation of Bangkok’s main airports in 2008, which stranded thousands of tourists. AFP

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