Lawyers acting for Thailand’s “red shirt” movement have filed a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether the Thai prime minister was responsible for crimes against humanity during bloody street battles last year.
Ninety-one people were killed in Thailand after the government sent in troops to disperse a rally by the red-clad United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). Some international investigators, such as Human Rights Watch, have claimed that the Thai army broke its stated rules of engagement and shot people who were not engaged in violent activity.
The 294-page document is titled “Application to Investigate the Situation of the Kingdom of Thailand with Regard to the Commission of Crimes Against Humanity“. It features witness testimony that suggests the state’s security forces conducted a military operation against its own civilians. It concludes that there is “substantial basis” to believe that “the political and military leadership of Thailand – including but not limited to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva – is criminally liable” for “murder; imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty; other inhumane acts; and persecution”.
A government spokesman dismissed the application as an attempt by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to discredit Thailand. The exiled Thaksin is widely believed to be the driving force behind the red shirt movement; furthermore, the legal firm behind the petition, Amsterdam & Peroff, also represents Thaksin.
The government spokesman, Buranat Samutrak, said the ICC was unlikely to accept the petition since it does not have jurisdiction over Thailand.
Thailand is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and UDD leaders were told last week by the court’s Hans-Peter Kaul that the Thai state does not fall under its jurisdiction. However, Amsterdam & Peroff argue that this is wrong, for two reasons. First, it says that a referral by the UN Security Council to the ICC would give it authority to investigate possible crimes against humanity in any country. Second, it says that because prime minister Abhisit was born in Britain – which is a signatory to the ICC – he is a British citizen and therefore the ICC may exercise jurisdiction ratione personae – i.e. because of the persons involved in the case.
Abhisit has responded by saying that he holds Thai nationality and therefore the ratione personae argument does not hold. “I’m Thai, not a Montenegrin”, he said, in a sarcastic reference to Thaksin, who holds dual Thai-Montenegrin citizenship.
The ICC has not commented on the petition.