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December 12, 2012

Letter to the Wall Street Journal on Abhisit’s Murder Charges

The Wall Street Journal Asia edition has published my letter to the editor responding to their coverage of the murder charges filed against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The full text is below:

Your newspaper’s recent article gives ample space to the allegation that the charges of premeditated murder filed against Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsubhan are somehow “politically motivated” (“Former Thai Prime Minister May Face Murder Charges,” World News, December 7). The article, however, fails to point out that the charges are supported by a large body of evidence already in the public record.

In 2010, Messrs. Abhisit and Suthep presided over a military crackdown that resulted in the deadliest in a long series of massacres of pro-democracy demonstrators. The operation turned parts of Bangkok into “live fire zones” where scores of unarmed demonstrators were gunned down by the authorities.

There exists substantial evidence that such acts of murder resulted from a government policy approved by Messrs. Abhisit and Suthep. Leaked government documents, for instance, show that the rules of engagement issued in advance of the crackdown authorized soldiers to fire live ammunition at protesters to “protect property.” On that basis, anyone (armed or unarmed) seen burning tires, hurling stones or engaging in any kind of property destruction was a target for live ammunition. These regulations amounted to a license to kill, as Reporters Without Borders put it.

As such, these regulations also stood in clear violation of international standards. The United Nations’ “Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials” authorizes the use of live ammunition against protesters only “when strictly unavoidable to protect life.” In November, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) discussed with the Thai government the possibility that the ICC would be granted jurisdiction to open a preliminary examination of whether crimes against humanity were committed in 2010—as alleged in numerous filings submitted by my firm to the ICC.

The filing of murder charges against Messrs. Abhisit and Suthep is a milestone in Thailand’s long fight to end official impunity surrounding the killing of civilians. Messrs. Abhisit and Suthep deserve a fair trial. That, however, should not prevent media organizations from examining the merits of the case, something your recent article failed to do.

Robert Amsterdam

Counsel to the United
Front for Democracy
Against Dictatorship


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