Thai court clears ex-pre­mier

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BANGKOK: A Thai court yes­ter­day dis­missed a case against for­mer prime min­is­ter Som­chai Wong­sawat, a brother-in-law of de­posed for­mer prime min­is­ter Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra, in a rare vic­tory for the pro-Thaksin, anti-junta move­ment.

Som­chai, along with then-deputy prime min­is­ter Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, was ac­cused of abuse of power over a deadly crackdown on demon­stra­tors in 2008.

Two peo­ple died and hun­dreds were wounded when po­lice used tear gas to clear anti-gov­ern­ment “yel­low shirt” protesters who had sur­rounded par­lia­ment in Bangkok.

“Even though there were peo­ple who were in­jured and killed in that event, it was dif­fi­cult for po­lice to know that the tear gas would cause in­juries and death in that man­ner,” the court said in a state­ment re­leased af­ter the verdict.

His op­po­nents ac­cused Som­chai of be­ing Thaksin’s pup­pet.

Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail sen­tence handed down for graft in 2008, was ousted in a 2006 coup but re­mains a ma­jor in­flu­ence over Thai pol­i­tics.

The Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily and their po­lit­i­cal al­lies are at the heart of a po­lit­i­cal con­flict that has di­vided Thai­land for more than a decade.

The cri­sis pits for­mer telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ty­coon Thaksin and his le­gions of sup­port­ers against the Bangkok-based elite which sees him as a threat to the old roy­al­ist-mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment.

Mem­bers of the Shi­nawa­tra fam­ily have ac­cused their op­po­nents of po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion.

The 2008 protest by the Peo­ple’s Al­liance for Democ­racy (PAD) group, an anti-Thaksin move­ment whose street action led ul­ti­mately to the 2006 coup against Thaksin, was among the worst po­lit­i­cal crises in re­cent Thai his­tory.

In Oc­to­ber that year, protesters sur­rounded par­lia­ment, forc­ing Som­chai to es­cape over a back fence af­ter de­liv­er­ing a pol­icy ad­dress.

Po­lice dis­persed protesters with vol­leys of tear gas. At least 400 were wounded.

Yes­ter­day’s rul­ing up­set for­mer mem­bers of the now-de­funct PAD. Some stood out­side the court af­ter the rul­ing and shouted: “Mur­der!”

The mil­i­tary took power in Thai­land in a 2014 coup, oust­ing Thaksin’s sis­ter, prime min­is­ter Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra. – Reuters

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