Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban could be charged with murder following yesterday's Criminal Court ruling on the death of a taxi driver during the 2010 political unrest.
The court yesterday ruled that the taxi driver, 44-year-old Phan Khamkong from Yasothon province, was killed during a military operation on the night of May 14, 2010, during the red-shirt protests.
Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tarit Pengdith said the ruling would set a precedent for the court to proceed with 35 other cases of fatalities from the 2010 riots that the DSI indicated were caused by official operations.
Based on the court's ruling, the DSI will now conduct a further investigation looking at two issues - the soldiers who were responsible for the shooting, and those who ordered the operation.
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The officials who are accused of shooting Phan will be classified as witnesses, as they were acting under instructions. Mr Tarit said it was possible Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep could be charged with premeditated murder under Sections 288 and 289 of the Criminal Code because they ordered the military to quell the riots.
The court yesterday said Phan was killed by a high-velocity bullet used in war weapons.
He died in front of a condominium near the Ratchaprarop Airport Link station when soldiers opened fire on a van driven by Samon Maithong, who violated a military order not to drive the van towards a military unit.
Phan was walking nearby and was shot dead. Mr Samon was shot and injured but survived.
Witnesses testified that the entrance to Ratchaprarop Road was closed off with barbed wire and even police officers could not easily enter without being searched, the verdict said. "The chance that [non-military] armed perpetrators could enter the scene and shoot at the van is unlikely. Even ambulances and other rescue vehicles were searched or barred from entry," the court said.
"After considering all empirical and surrounding evidence as well as witness testimonies and video footage, I am convinced there was no exchange of fire between the offender and the military, or any attack on military checkpoints, as Mr Suthep reported, while bullet holes were seen on both the front and the sides of the van," the judge said. "There were no men in black and no car bomb, as authorities suggested.
"Although there was no empirical witness testimony that could say whose bullet killed Phan, 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."
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