Thailand’s Supreme Court on Wednesday declared former prime ministers Somchai Wongsawat and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, along with two associates, not guilty of causing the deaths of two people and injuries to nearly 500 more during protests at parliament in 2008.
A nine-judge panel ruled for Somchai, the 69-year-old brother-in-law of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the three other defendants, saying the demonstration was not peaceful and therefore was not constitutionally protected. The two demonstrators were killed when riot-control police fired tear gas into the crowd that had stormed the parliamentary grounds on Oct. 7, 2008, when Somchai served as prime minister.
“The demonstrators aroused their fellows to besiege the parliament compound, therefore they were not peaceful. … The defendants did not have any intention to order the police force to harm or cause fatality among demonstrators,” one of the judges read from the verdict.
The verdict stated that anti-riot police dispersed the demonstrators properly and they could not predict the level of damage that tear gas could cause in such a tense situation.
Prosecutors have a month to consider appealing the verdict.
Somchai and Chavalit, who served as his deputy, along with then-National Police Bureau chief Gen. Patcharawat Wongsuwan and then-Metropolitan Police commander Lt. Gen. Suchart Meaunkhaew co-ordered officers to disperse members of the Yellow Shirts or the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) who surrounded the parliamentary compound on that day on October 2008, the court found.
Yellow Shirt members are loyal to royalists including the junta, which seized control of the government in a May 2014 coup, while Red Shirts, a pro-democracy group, align with Somchai and others linked to Thaksin.
Chavalit served as prime minister during the Asian economic crisis of 1997, and Patcharawat is a younger brother of current Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan.
The four men left the courthouse through backdoors after the verdict, and were greeted by a few dozen Yellow Shirt supporters who booed and chanted: “Murderers, murderers!”
Full story: BenarNews
Nontarat Phaicharoen and Pimuk Rakkanam
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