Thai protest leaders charged with terrorism, could face death penalty

By Kinan Suchaovanich, AP
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thai protest leaders charged with terrorism

BANGKOK — Eleven leaders of bloody, anti-government protests could face the death penalty after being charged Tuesday with terrorism during the worst political upheaval in modern Thai history.

The Criminal Court denied bail for the 11 who were taken to a Bangkok prison after being charged with committing, threatening to commit and supporting terrorist acts. While the charges carry a maximum penalty of death, executions are rare in Thailand.

The leaders, including Veera Musikapong and Nattawut Saikua, had been detained since surrendering to the government on May 19 following weeks of clashes between so-called Red Shirt protesters and security forces in which nearly 90 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured.

Most of the dead and injured were protesters, largely made up of rural and urban poor, who demanded a dissolution of Parliament and new elections, claiming the government had come to power through illegitimate means.

Since the quelling of the Bangkok protests, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has attempted to implement a reconciliation policy to heal the social and economic rifts in Thai society. But critics said the charges of terrorism will only serve to deepen the divisions and possibly lead to more violence.

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