Former Thai Prime Minister Refutes Murder Charge
Former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is facing charges over civilian causalities during a military crackdown on anti-government protesters in 2010, said the allegations are "politically motivated," adding he will fight to defend his innocence.
"I think it's clear because the charges that have been formally made - the description of events - are not in line with what the Department of Special Investigations had previously concluded when it filed charges of terrorism against the protesters. It's politically motivated and we're not surprised by it," Vejjajiva, who was prime minister from 2008-2011, told CNBC.
"I will fight the charges because I know what I was doing when I was prime minister. I'm doing my best for the country and trying to avoid all kinds of losses," he added.
In May 2010, Vejjajiva approved the use of weapons and live ammunition, as protests calling for his government to step down turned violent. More than 90 people died and hundreds were injured during the riots that spanned over two months.
In December, the former prime minister was charged for murder over the death of a taxi driver during the crackdown.
"We were dealing with a protest that has already been judged by the court to be illegal. The court has confirmed, there were elements of armed people among the protesters," Vejjajiva said.
"When the military or the police were trying to keep order, they of course were entitled to self-defense. And so live fire was used, basically with clear instructions about self-defense and without any intention of harming people," he added.
Vejjajiva, who is currently the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, said he would not accept amnesty if it was offered to him, adding that he is willing to "face whatever consequences from the court verdict."
In 2012, current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's ruling party proposed a bill granting amnesty to political convicts.
"I think if the court deems that I have committed an offense and deserve the death penalty, I should accept it. Otherwise, we cannot set a precedent and clear once and for all that in Thailand everybody has to be under the law," he added.
Discussing his views on what it would take to achieve long-term political stability in Thailand, he said it's for "all sides to accept the basic rules of the game."
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"The government has the legitimacy to pursue the policies that they've made a pledge to the people. We may not agree with them - like the rice pledge scheme - but they have the legitimacy to implement and the people will decide," referring to the government's program to offer farmers a fixed price for their rice harvests.
Economy on Stable Footing
While political instability and severe flooding that occurred in 2011 has put a damper on Thailand's growth in the recent years, the country's economy and stock market made a strong comeback in 2012.
The economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace of 1.2 percent in the third quarter, from the previous three months. The benchmark SET, meantime, surged 36 percent last year, after declining 1 percent in 2011.
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Vejjajiva attributes this to the strength in the country's private sector and the government's strong majority in the lower house, allowing for a smoother decision making process.
"I should say also the fact that the opposition is not trying to create trouble and we've made a clear stance that whenever the government wants to take the country forward, we would support them," he said.
However, he maintains that there are some challenges ahead, particularly in terms of rising costs for businesses in the country as a result of recent wage hikes.
Vejjajiva urges that the government should provide measures that will help small to medium business and enterprises in the rural areas, which were previously accustomed to lower wages.
"They should provide help to these groups, maybe even in the form of direct subsidies. So that they have breathing space to adjust to this new rate maybe over 2 to 3 years," he said.