BANGKOK (AP) — A former prime minister of Thailand was charged with murder in the latest twist in a political war between supporters and opponents of another ex-leader, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The murder charge against Abhisit Vejjajiva stems from the violent suppression of anti-government protests in 2010 when demonstrators were seeking to have Abhisit, Thaksin's rival, call early elections, saying he was installed in office illegitimately.
Thaksin was ousted as prime minister by a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption and disrespect to the monarchy.
The protests and crackdown left more than 90 people dead and about 1,800 injured in Thailand's worst political violence in decades.
Abhisit is accused by the Department of Special Investigation of allowing the unrestrained use of deadly force to quell the protest.
Speaking to reporters after meeting for more than four hours with DSI officials Thursday, Abhisit said he had formally acknowledged the charge against him, but denied he was guilty. He said he would present documents supporting his position after studying the charge more closely.
A court must still accept the case before it goes forward to trial.
DSI specifically found reason to believe Abhisit culpable in the death of a taxi driver because he allowed troops to use war weapons and live ammunition against protesters. A recent criminal court inquest had found security forces responsible for the man's death.
The shooting occurred during two months of demonstrations by Thaksin's supporters, known as the Red Shirts, who occupied a central intersection in the capital Bangkok. As tensions grew, the army garrisoned the area around their encampment, while Abhisit lived at an army base for his own safety and security. Soldiers swept through barriers to forcefully end the protest on May 19, 2010.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who was in charge of the special security agency set up to contain the protests, arrived with Abhisit to be charged with the same offense.
The two were greeted by DSI chief Tharit Phengdit as they walked smiling through a gauntlet of reporters into the offices of the agency, the Thai equivalent of the FBI in the United States.
The political tide has shifted several times since Thaksin's ouster. His sister Yingluck Shinawatra is now prime minister, while Abhisit leads the opposition as head of the Democrat Party. Tharit was DSI chief during Abhisit's administration, and was widely seen then as his hatchet man for aggressively prosecuting Red Shirt leaders and supporters.