Thailand’s deputy prime minister on Tuesday appeared to hear charges against him for ordering the April 10 crackdown on street demonstrations that left 25 people dead. But a spokesman for the protestors said that Suthep Thaugsuban’s appearance at a department of the Justice Ministry did not meet their demands that he surrender to the police. On Monday, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), insisted that Mr. Suthep face charges as a precondition for them to accept a government proposal to end the protests. UDD leaders themselves face various charges in connection with the demonstrations, which started on March 12 and have left 29 people dead. On Monday they demanded that Mr. Suthep turn himself in to police in connection with the April 10 street battle. But the enquiry into April 10 is being conducted by the Department of Special Investigation. “It is correct for Suthep to come here, because the April 10 case is with us, not the police,” DSI director general Tharit Pengdit said.
Relatives of protestors killed filed a complaint with against him and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for the crackdown.
Mr. Suthep, deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs, was in command of the crackdown in the old part of Bangkok, that left 20 and five soldiers dead.
An emergency decree issued three days earlier provides some immunity to authorities in restoring law and order. “The emergency law grants officials protection from prosecution but I’m willing to hear the charges to show my responsibility as a politician,” Mr. Suthep said. “I want to see the reconciliation process move ahead, and the restoration of peace to the country.” It was not immediately clear whether the UDD would accept Mr. Suthep’s gesture.
“We feel he’s violated the spirit of our condition, which was that he turn himself in to the Crime Suppression Department” of the police, UDD spokesman Sean Boonprasong said. The movement’s leaders will meet Tuesday to discuss the development, he said.
The UDD have been holding protests in Bangkok since March 12, calling on Mr. Abhisit to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. On May 3, Mr. Abhisit agreed to dissolve parliament between September 15—30, and to hold elections on November 14.
The 24 key leaders of the UDD face numerous charges for the increasingly violent protests, and for illegally occupying a prime commercial district in central Bangkok, since April 3. The leaders have asked for bail if they end the protest, but the government opposes it for at least four of the most militant leaders. “This is all about bargaining and posturing,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University. Under Mr. Abhisit’s reconciliation proposal, both sides would agree to keep the monarchy out of political conflicts, to tackle economic disparities and inequality, attempt to assure a balanced media, establish an independent investigation of the April 10 melee and assure open political participation.
Mr. Abhisit has threatened to cancel the November 14 elections if the proposal is rejected, and refused to consider an amnesty for the movement’s leaders.
The UDD leaders remained in their street fortress, where they are surrounded and guarded by several thousand followers.
Keywords: Political turmoil,