Ex-Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva denies murder charges over 2010 crackdown
Former Thai PM denies allegations over death of civilian in crackdown on protesters in 2010
Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday denied murder charges over a civilian's death during a crackdown on anti-government rallies in 2010.
Abhisit and his then-deputy Suthep Thaugsuban were charged at Bangkok's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) - the first officials to face a court over Thailand's worst political violence in decades.
"I am innocent and deny the charges," Abhisit said after he and Suthep emerged from 4-1/2 hours of questioning.
He acknowledged the charge "related to the incident that happened in 2010" but said it was politically motivated, vowing to clear his name, adding: "I will not run away ... I am not a coward."
The Oxford-educated former premier said he had 45 days to file supporting statements with the department which would then decide whether to pass the case to state prosecutors responsible for deciding if it goes to trial.
About 90 people died and nearly 1,900 were wounded in a series of street clashes between supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as "red shirts", and security forces, which culminated in a deadly army operation in May 2010.
The charge against Abhisit, who was prime minister at the time, relates to the fatal shooting of taxi driver Phan Kamkong.
Department of Special Investigation chief Tarit Pengdith said the move was prompted by a court ruling in September that Phan was shot by troops.
Abhisit has said he had no choice but to take tough action, adding he would accept trial rather than bargain over a proposal by his political rivals in government for a wide-ranging amnesty plan that many believe could allow the return of Thaksin.
Experts believe British-born Abhisit is unlikely to face jail because of his close ties to the Thai establishment.
The red shirts demanded immediate elections in their 2010 protest. They accused Abhisit's government of being undemocratic because it took office in 2008 through a parliamentary vote after a court stripped Thaksin's allies of power.
Polls last year brought Thaksin's Peua Thai party to power with his sister Yingluck as prime minister, relegating Abhisit into opposition.