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The Supreme Court on Monday (10 July) sentenced Tharit Pengdit, former Director-General of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), to 2 years in prison on charges of abuse of power and malfeasance filed against him for his investigation of the 2010 crackdown against the Red Shirts.

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban filed charges against Tharit and three other officials after he pressed murder charges against them for the violent crackdown on the 2010 Red Shirt protests, which resulted in the deaths of 99 people and injured at least 2000.

Abhisit and Suthep claimed that Tharit abused his power to harass them because he pressed charges and indicted them without forwarding the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). They also accused Tharit of being used by the government under former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to press charges against them even though the DSI does not have the authority to do so, since pressing charges against individuals holding a political office must be done at the discretion of the NACC.

In September 2018, the Criminal Court dismissed charges against Tharit and the three officials on the grounds that there is no evidence showing they intentionally harassed Abhisit and Suthep. The Appeal Court overturned the verdict in March 2020 and sentenced the four defendants to 2 years in prison because it was under the NACC’s authority to press charges against Abhisit and Suthep, and because the court believed the defendants were trying to please the Yingluck government so that Tharit could extend his term as Director-General.

On Monday (10 July), the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Appeal Court’s verdict and sentenced Tharit to 2 years in prison, but dismissed charges against the other three officials. The Court also dismissed petitions Tharit filed to change the judges responsible for the case and to postpone the trial.

Tharit was immediately taken into detention at the Bangkok Remand Prison. However, on Tuesday (11 July), the Department of Corrections issued a press release saying that he had been sent to the Medical Correctional Institution after it was found that he has several pre-existing health conditions, including infectious tuberculosis, for which he was being treated before his imprisonment. He has been placed in a separate tuberculosis ward to reduce the risk of other inmates contracting the disease.

Tharit and family members of crackdown victims held a press conference on Saturday (8 July), ahead of his sentencing, during which he said that charging him would grant impunity to those who committed crimes, and so he had requested that the Supreme Court ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether Sections 157 and 200 of the Thai Criminal Code, which punishes official misconduct, are unconstitutional.

Tharit and the families said they were concerned that Abhisit and Suthep would be seen as innocent if the Supreme Court rule that their indictment is unlawful because the violence against the Red Shirt protesters was not excessive. They also raised concerns that the Supreme Court’s ruling would set a precedent which could lead to state officials not prosecuting criminals because they are afraid of going to jail themselves.

Tharit also said that, soon after the crackdown, he was threatened by a military officer, who would later be involved with the 2014 military coup. The military officer told Tharit not to proceed with prosecution related to the crackdown, or he would stage a coup and Tharit would be removed from office and transferred to a different post.

Acting Prime Minister and coup leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters on Monday (10 July) he had nothing to do with the alleged threat made against Tharit, but refused to answer any further questions.

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