Thai Government murder charges comparison

It seems both the present Thai Government and the previous Thai Government are facing nearly identical murder charges for deaths during protest dispersal. There is one significant difference and that is one action was court endorsed, and the other went against a court ruling.

Perhaps you could call this tit for tat murder charges if you look at this very superficially. But the fact is it is much more complex than that. One set of charges is being used as a political tool for leverage seeking concessions, and the other is being used by the families of the deceased seeking justice for actions that went against the courts ruling.

In 2010 Then Democratic Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban were confronted with Red Shirt protests that were seeking ouster of the Government. As it would be, Red Shirts are a violent bunch and are not afraid of using force and violence to get their way, they stepped way over the line and started attacking people, and eventually escalated to burning down parts of Bangkok.

Abhisit did two things that were both wise and perhaps brilliant to be sure he was making the right call. First he showed much more restraint than was required by international standards for crowd control. That means on the scale of escalating methods that could be used, he chose a lower level. In other words using a 10 scale, if the international standard allowed level 5 based on the situation and conditions, Abhisit would use a lesser level 3. That provided a visible level of legal insulation for him should there be future legal challenges. Second he sought authorization from the court to proceed with crowd control so he could never be accused of being too aggressive. Abhisit always had in his mind the people he was going to disburse were fellow Thais.

So when you see all of that being done to protect fellow Thais, you can appreciate his restraint. However when the Red Shirts started firing live ammunition back at the crowd control forces who only had shields and batons, the need for stronger methods became necessary to protect the lives of the police and military who were conducting the crowd control action. However in the end, Abhisit and Suthep never did exceed the international standard to restore order.

Fast forward to 2014 and we have former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep leading the protest against the Government. In a complete turnaround of behavior, where the Red Shirts were violent and breaking several laws including assaults on people, Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) were not violent, not armed and staying within the law. Because of that their protests were legal and protected by the Constitution.

However in an effort to make them illegal the Government imposed a State of Emergency in hopes to make the PDRC protest illegal. In a counter mover the PDRC approached the court and in a preliminary ruling the court indicated that the PDRC protests were both legal and protected by the Constitution because they were not armed and not violent so don’t go after them. A more in depth ruling was set for about a week later after hearing arguments from both sides.

A day before that ruling was set to be given, the Government went ahead and attacked the protesters in an attempt to disburse them, totally ignoring the court’s initial ruling that said hands off. That illegal dispersal attempt resulted in several deaths on both sides setting the basis for murder charges.

The next day the court made the same ruling and with a bit more detail saying the Government could not use the State of Emergency against legal protests and very specifically outlined what it could not do. That made the State of Emergency completely impotent for what the Government intended it for.

As a result murder charges for the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) are very likely to stick for violating a court order and the charges on Abhisit and Suthep are likely to be dropped because of both restraint and immunity as it was part of their job and authorised by the court.

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