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Ex-Thai PM Let Off in Murder Case, Cleared of Charges

Jaishree Balasubramanian/Bangkok

A Thai court today dismissed charges of pre-meditated murder and abuse of power against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his then deputy over a violent crackdown on opposition protesters in 2010. 

Several demonstrators died in street clashes between "Red Shirt" demonstrators and security forces in 2010 here.

The Criminal Court ruled it has no authority to handle the case as Abhisit and his then deputy Suthep Thaugsuban were holders of public office at the time and acting under an emergency decree.

"Jurisdiction in the matter rests with the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions," the court said. 

Prosecutors initially filed two lawsuits with the Criminal Court seeking the indictment of the two men.

The action followed after Criminal Court rulings on several cases that some protesters were killed and wounded by gunshots fired by soldiers acting on the orders of the Centre of the Resolution of the Emergency Situation, which was set up by the then-Democrat-led government under Abhisit.

The two were charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the military crackdown on the protesting supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship between April 7 and May 19 in 2010, which resulted in more than 90 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Both Abhisit and Suthep had denied the charges.

Suthep, who went on to lead months of street protests against Abhisit's successor Yingluck Shinawatra, appeared in court sporting a shaven head and the orange robes of a Buddhist monk after entering monk hood recently.

The Red Shirts are mostly supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a previous coup in 2006 and lives in self-exile to avoid prison for a corruption conviction. 

His younger sister Yingluck was removed from office in a court ruling in May this year, shortly before the military seized power. 

In the 2010 protests, the Red Shirts were demanding snap elections, saying Abhisit's government took office undemocratically in 2008.

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PLACES: Thailand
SECTION: International
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