Ex-PM pleads not guilty to murder charge

Abhisit posts bail as court sets hearing for March; Suthep's lawyer seeks delay
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is determined to appear in court to fight accusations that he is responsible for the deaths and injuries of many people during the bloody dispersal of red-shirt demonstrators in 2010.

He showed up at the Criminal Court yesterday to acknowledge charges that two deaths and one injury took place as a result of his order. He denied any wrongdoing.

"I would like to thank all the people who have opposed the amnesty bill. You have made it possible for me to prove my innocence. I trust the judicial system," Abhisit said in a Facebook message yesterday.

Abhisit is being prosecuted on charges of conspiring to have others kill or attempt to kill another person during his tenure as prime minister. In 2010, while premier, his order led to the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) mobilising armed soldiers to reclaim areas occupied by red-shirt demonstrators. The military operations led to bloody clashes, which resulted in heavy casualties.

At the Criminal Court, a number of the victims' relatives showed up yesterday morning. As soon as they saw Abhisit, they hurled abuses at him. Abhisit's supporters, however, also showed up and confronted them. The two sides engaged in a heated verbal dispute but there was no violence.

The Criminal Court deployed a company of police officers to ensure order was kept.

Former Democrat MPs such as Sirichok Sopha and Thepthai Senpong were at the court to express moral support for Abhisit, who is still the Democrat Party's leader.

After Abhisit entered a not-guilty plea, the court scheduled the first hearing to examine evidence on March 24 next year.

The court approved Abhisit's bail request.

He was released on a Bt600,000 bond and barred from travelling outside Thailand without approval.

Abhisit left the court without giving any interviews.

Suthep Thaugsuban, who is now the secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), was scheduled to appear in court yesterday to face the same charge as Abhisit. In 2010, Suthep served as a deputy prime minister and the CRES director.

However, Suthep yesterday sent his lawyer to ask the court that his indictment be postponed until January 16.

Spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General, Nantasak Poolsak, said Suthep would be required to produce more documents by December 16. "Then we will reschedule his indictment," he said.

The PDRC is staging a massive rally against the so-called "Thaksin regime". In the face of PDRC pressure, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday ordered a House dissolution.

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