Friday, February 25, 2011

Thailand: Thai Prime Minister's Confession Underscores Urgent Need to Prevent Violence Against Protesters, Says Lawyer

Source: Amsterdam & Peroff LLP

This week the Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva publicly acknowledged for the first time that he holds dual Thai and British citizenship.

This fact was first alleged in a Jan. 31 filing to the International Criminal Court (ICC) submitted on behalf of the Red Shirt pro-democracy movement, requesting an inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity committed during the military's crackdown against protesters in April and May 2010, which resulted in approximately 91 deaths, thousands injured, and hundreds of controversial arrests. Abhisit's citizenship is relevant as it is argued in the application as one of the possible bases for ICC jurisdiction, citing Article 12.2.b of the Rome Statute.

"For the past 24 days, the Prime Minister has refused to be honest regarding his UK citizenship, and instead has obfuscated with irrelevant excuses regarding student fees and visas," said Robert Amsterdam, partner at Amsterdam & Peroff LLP, representing the Red Shirts. "Prime Minister Abhisit must understand that this is no laughing matter, and no time to joke about which British football teams he supports when his government has failed to investigate, prosecute, or even sanction any officials responsible for these deaths."

In the weeks following the Jan. 31 filing of the application before the ICC, spokespersons for the prime minister, Buranat Samutrak and Thepthai Senpong, repeatedly issued public denials, claiming that Abhisit did not hold British citizenship. Numerous defamatory statements attacking Mr. Amsterdam and Red Shirt leaders such as Jatuporn Prompan over the Abhisit's citizenship status were also circulated in the media.

This abrupt reversal of the government's position illustrates an important point, said Amsterdam. "If they can't tell the truth about just one small fact, than how can any Thai person reasonably expect them to administer justice?"

Amsterdam also drew comparisons between this case and the violence used against demonstrators across the world, including recent protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya. "This is in many ways a landmark case built upon strong evidence, representing an opportunity for the international community to show that dictators and authoritarian leaders will be held accountable for using violence against their own people. Given the abhorrent repressions and high death tolls in the current struggle for democracy across the Arab world, we need to send this message now more than ever."

A special website has been set up to host videos and witness testimonies of the victims of violence against protesters in Thailand at A copy of the ICC application and accompanying materials is available on