Thai protesters demand criminal charges against deputy PM

Thai protesters demand criminal charges against deputy PM
# 11 May 2010 04:58 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Suthep Thaugsuban set to hear complaints against him at justice ministry over order to launch army crackdown on protests, APA reports quoting “The Guardian”.
Thailand’s deputy prime minister will tomorrow appear before government investigators over his order to launch an army crackdown on anti-government demonstrators which led to the deaths of 25 people.
Suthep Thaugsuban will hear complaints against him at the justice ministry’s department of special investigations, and the redshirt protesters say they will not abandon their fortified protest site in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping and finance district until police bring criminal charges against him over the 10 April violence.
As the political crisis gripping Bangkok dragged into its ninth week, the protesters said they would agree to the government’s proposed timetable to dissolve the parliament in late September, before an election on 14 November.
But they imposed new conditions on the government’s "roadmap for reconciliation", including the restoration of their television channel, and criminal charges against Suthep.
"Once Suthep turns himself in to the police, the [protesters] will disperse and return home," the co-leader of the redshirts, Nattawut Saikua, told supporters.
In response, a government spokesman, Panitan Wattanayagorn, told reporters: "Deputy prime minister Suthep will go to the department of special investigations to hear the accusations against him." The spokesman said no charges had been laid against Suthep, and stressed that he was not giving in to redshirt demands to "surrender" to police.
Family members of those killed have lodged complaints with the ministry of justice, calling for charges to be laid against Suthep, who gave the order on 10 April for troops to move in on protesters.
The move quickly descended into violence. Protesters hurled rocks, concrete and grenades at troops, who responded initially by firing rubber bullets, but later aimed live rounds into the crowd. Twenty-five people, including five soldiers and a Japanese cameraman, were killed and more than 800 injured.
But the operation failed to move the protesters on, and chunks of Bangkok have been in redshirt hands ever since. Suthep was replaced as head of the Thai government’s centre for the resolution of the emergency situation days later.
Sporadic outbreaks of violence have continued since, with another four people killed in separate grenade and gun attacks. But it appears unlikely there will be further violence on the streets of Bangkok, with army commanders saying openly they will not send troops back in against protesters, and the warring parties inching towards a peaceful resolution.
More than 60 days of protests have seen a metamorphosis in the redshirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). Once a protest group largely made up of the rural poor committed to the public restoration of the disgraced former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the movement is now a broad-based, if factionalised and undisciplined, movement for grassroots democratic change.
It argues that the current government has no mandate, having come to power in a parliamentary election it claims was engineered by the military.
"It has become much more than just Thaksin now; the UDD have shown themselves to be a force to be reckoned with," said Chulalongkorn University political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak. "They are a force for change and they will not go away quietly."
Thaksin’s face still features heavily on the group’s merchandise, and his billions are still financing the protests, but his significance for the movement has waned. He now rarely addresses the protests by phone, and the red shirt leadership has made no demands about Thaksin at any stage during its long-running standoff with the government.
There are concerns, however, that no long-term political peace will be achieved, even with an election, which would probably be won by the red shirt-aligned Puea Thai party.
"The election campaign … could be very nasty," said Thitinan. "It could actually exacerbate the confrontation. It could end up in the same vicious cycle: whoever wins, the losers won’t accept it."