Prime ministers, murderers and Judy Garland

During the London G-20 summit protests in 2009, Ian Tomlinson, an English newspaper vendor, an innocent bystander, was caught up in a melee and later died from internal injuries. Constable Simon Harwood was charged with manslaughter, but found not guilty.

I am certain that Tarit Pengdit, chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), would agree with me that the person who should have been charged instead of, or as well as, the police constable was former UK prime minister Gordon Brown. After all, the DSI chief found it fit to charge former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva with the death of an innocent bystander, not a protester, during the political violence in April and May 2010.

Of course, I realise that if you are a Thaksinista, then Thaksin Shinawatra, the Pheu Thai Party and the red-shirt UDD is the holy trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - while the opposition is Satan incarnate. But let's try to view the issue objectively, even if it's difficult or downright impossible. 

As well, I understand that if you are anti-Thaksin, then Abhisit, the Democrat Party and the multi-colour  opposition is your holy trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - while Thaksin is Satan incarnate. But still, let's try to view the issue objectively, even if it's difficult or downright impossible.

First, to charge or not to charge is the prerogative of the police and, whoever they owe allegiance to, this column will only ask for consistency. One simple word, with all the weight of justice, fairness and integrity behind it: consistency. If we were to charge former prime ministers over the deaths of innocent bystanders, then there's another case.

On Jan 14 2003, then-prime minister Thaksin launched a campaign to rid ''every square inch of the country'' of drugs in three months. Human Rights Watch reported that 2,275 people were killed extrajudicially. These victims were never judged guilty of any crime in a court of law. Perhaps the DSI should also charge Thaksin with murder?  

Surely, coming up next, Abhisit and Suthep Thaugsuban will be charged over the deaths of actual protesters. If so, let's see some consistency here as well. Two protesters died during the Oct 7, 2008 siege of Government House by the yellow-shirt Peoples Alliance for Democracy. Perhaps the DSI should then charge former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat with murder?  

Facts make for the best sarcasm, don't you agree? 

Second, from Abhisit's BBC interview, we should take the words of the former prime minister and hold him accountable. "If the court for whatever reason passes a guilty verdict, I will accept it,'' he said. "I will accept whatever the verdict is, even if it's a death penalty.''

Here's a man who, once upon a time, was the bright, shining hope of Thai politics. Through the years since the 2006 military coup however, he has been accused of inconsistency in his support for democracy, weakness in his dealings with corrupt coalition partners and of an inability to control the shady elements in his own political party.

But here is where he can show something to the naysayers. Face the charge, stand trial, do not flee out of the country, and refuse a blanket amnesty that will also benefit his political enemies - even if he has to face "the death penalty''. In this, if he lives up to his own words, he would at least prove that he's more of a man than Thaksin ever was.

Third, if you're a red sympathiser, naturally you favour the reds, and hence your objectivity is quite red. If you're a blue sympathiser, naturally you favour of the blue, and hence your objectivity is quite blue. The logic is simply a matter of arithmetic.

People illegally occupied a public area for two months. There were shootings, bombings and deaths of civilians,  soldiers and police. After negotiations failed, the offer of a general election refused, the authorities moved in to disperse them. They resisted. Violence was met with violence. It is the same in any country and under any law. 

Having said that, any unlawful, any extrajudicial, killing, such as those alleged to have occurred at Wat Pratumwanaram should be investigated thoroughly. If Abhisit should be charged for this, then so be it. But don't forget to also charge the other former prime ministers for their unlawful killings. What about the police and the soldiers, the colonels and the generals?

Consistency doesn't mean you have to be consistently pro-red or consistently pro-blue, or pro any other colour.  If you're consistently pro-democracy, justice and rule of law, then you might just find the clarity to see the good, the bad and the ugly - the inconsistencies on both sides of the political divide.

Then we might have fewer petty arguments that lead nowhere, and more objectivity that may lead to somewhere over the rainbow - where the dreams we dare to dream, really may come true.

Here's to you, Judy Garland.

Related search: Opinion, Voranai, DSI, 2010, protests, charges, Abhisit, Thaksin, rights

About the author

Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator