Thai opposition calls for probe into deaths of protesters

Thailand’s anti-government movement the Red Shirts has officially asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate possible crimes against humanity committed by the government, its lawyer said on Monday.

Robert Amsterdam, a London-based representative for the movement, filed the petition on Sunday relating to deadly street clashes in Bangkok during two months of protests last year, he told a press conference via videolink.

The application requested that ICC prosecutors “launch a preliminary investigation relating to potential crimes against humanity committed in Thailand in April and May”, Amsterdam said from Tokyo.

During the red-clad demonstrations in the capital — which peaked at 100 000 people calling for immediate elections — clashes between protesters and the military left more than 90 people dead.

Amsterdam cited in particular the alleged use of snipers and the firing of live ammunition by the army during the violence.

‘I am a Thai citizen, not Montenegrin’
Although Thailand has not ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC, Amsterdam argued that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was in fact a citizen of Great Britain where he was born, which is a signatory of the pact.

“I am a Thai citizen, not Montenegrin,” Abhisit later said, in a jibe at the Reds’ hero and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been given citizenship of Montenegro.

Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and lives abroad to escape a jail term for corruption, is also represented by Amsterdam.

The Red Shirts first urged the ICC to investigate the allegations in October, although the official complaint was filed on Sunday.

“We are appealing to international justice to put an end to Thai impunity,” said the acting chairperson of the Red Shirts, Thida Thavornseth.

“Our courts have failed to administer justice, and our government has failed to investigate the murders of more than 80 peaceful protesters,” she added.

After an army crackdown that ended the protests in May, small bands of militant protesters set dozens of buildings ablaze across Bangkok, including a glitzy shopping mall in the upmarket commercial district.

An official Thai investigation into the deaths is under way, but the opposition has denounced the probe as a “whitewash”.

The mostly poor and working class Red Shirts have shown increasing strength in recent months, holding rallies in Bangkok twice a month that have attracted tens of thousands of supporters. — Sapa-AFP

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