08/28/2014, 00.00
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Thai court drops murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit and deputy Suthep

The two leaders were on trial for the bloodshed caused by the crackdown against protests in the spring of 2010. At the time, Thai security forces killed scores of 'red-shirt' protesters. For the court, only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the matter. Lawyers for victims' families will appeal.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Thai court dropped murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, who had been indicted for their role in the bloody crackdown against protests in the spring of 2010.

For the astonished and outraged relatives of the victims, the surprise court decision to drop the case was politically motivated.

Scores of protesters died during the protests against the Abhisit government, which was backed by yellow-shirted supporters drawn mostly from the country's establishment and highest institutions.

The clashes in the capital caused dozens of deaths, pitting security forces and 'red-shirt' supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a Thai billionaire forced into voluntary exile to avoid a two-year sentence for corruption.

The court, which previously authorised proceedings against the two leaders at the request of the Shinawatra government, today ruled that it did not have jurisdiction the matter. At the time of the facts, the two important public office holders acted under an emergency decree.

For the court, only the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, which covers public officials, has jurisdiction in the matter and the power to determine whether Abhisit and Suthep - who deny any wrongdoing - are guilty or innocent.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, the victims' relatives, have already announced that they would appeal.

Since 2005, Thailand has been the scene of clashes between "red shirted" protesters close to the Shinawatras, who are popular in the countryside and among the poor, and "yellow shirted" protesters drawn from the country's middle and upper classes, especially in the capital, who are represented by the Democrat Party, led in parliament by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In 2008, the protest by the 'yellow-shirt' movement saw the occupation of Bangkok International Airport. This was followed by the downfall of pro-Thaksin governments and the rise to power by the Democrat Party. Two years of unrest followed as the 'red-shirt' movement took to the streets, and occupied the capital's financial district.

In the spring of 2010, clashes between demonstrators and police left hundreds dead, triggering a political process that led to new elections and the temporary return to power of the Shinawatra family.

In May of this, the military intervened again to put an end to months of political stalemate. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, and her government, which had easily won the previous election, were ousted.

At present, the military is in charge of the country. The commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army was recently appointed prime minister with full powers to reform the state.

However, nothing is known about what reforms he has in mind, and more than one observer has sounded the alarm of a possible authoritarian drift.

In fact, the current Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-Ocha, masterminded the violent crackdown of 2010. Since then, no member of the armed forces was ever investigated or indicted in connection with the bloodshed.

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