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Southeast Asia, explained

Thailand: ex-premier facing murder charge

British-born former leader accused in death of bystander during violent protests
Abhisit vejjajiva murder 2012 12 06Enlarge
Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on March 2, 2012. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and his camp -- targeted for toppling by the "Red Shirts" anti-establishment protesters in 2010 -- have exhibited little remorse over the 80-plus deaths racked up during army crackdowns that year.

They've mostly stuck to their contention that the deaths, while lamentable, were largely the fault of unruly protest factions holding the city hostage with the help of shadowy militants.

But that's a shaky explanation for the killing of Phan Khamkong, a 44-year-old guy who moved to Bangkok from rice-farming country. He never went out protesting and never antagonized military crackdown units. The poor guy was just looking for a bus back home to his neighborhood when he was shot dead on May 15, 2010, during the height of the protests.

According to the Bangkok Post, a court ruling states that "all the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the volley of gunfire with war weapons came from the military authorities who were on duty that night."

Now, as Agence France Presse reports, Phan's death has led to a murder charge against Abhisit, who ordered the army to disperse protesters.

This is extremely bad news for the former premier.

Charges against high-ranking, well-connected figures in Thailand have a way of getting clogged up in the legal system and withering on the vine.

That said, if Thai authorities are really intent on prosecuting Abhisit for this, then he could catch more charges over the others who were shot even though little to no evidence suggests they ever posed a mortal threat to soldiers dispatched to scramble the protest encampments.

At the risk of understatement, let's just say prison would not suit the Oxford-educated, well-heeled former premier.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/thailand-ex-premier-facing-murder-charge