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Abhisit Vejjajiva, the opposition leader and previous prime minister, has been formally charged with murder in a development that has the potential to further inflame protests by his supporters demanding the resignation of the current government.
Abhisit stands charged over the deaths of a 43-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl during a crackdown on anti-government protests during 2010 when he was in power. The Red Shirt movement had taken to the streets in support of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was thrown out as prime minister in a 2006 military coup.
Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, now holds office as prime minister and the protesters on the streets demanding her ousting are aligned with Abhisit.
In 2010 the Red Shirt protesters occupied downtown Bangkok for months. Abhisit’s government approved the use of live ammunition under limited conditions and deployed sharpshooters during the demonstrations. He has denied the charges against him.
In the face of the current protests, Yingluck Shinawatra has dissolved parliament and called elections but rejected demonstrators’ demands to stand aside immediately and hand power to an unelected council.
Protesters announced they cut off electricity to the prime minister’s office compound on Thursday and demanded that police abandon the premises.
The protesters have threatened to force their way in if police don’t leave. Police attempts to negotiate were rebuffed, but they did not withdraw immediately.
Police confirmed that power had been cut to some buildings in the compound, collectively called Government House.
Protesters also cut barbed wire placed on top of the steel fence surrounding the compound while police stationed nearby looked on. Yingluck Shinawatra was not in her offices at the time
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy premier also accused of murder during the 2010 protests, has asked police and military chiefs to meet him by Thursday evening and choose their side in the crisis.
The politically powerful army, which has staged or attempted 18 coups in the past 80 years, has said it does not want to get involved this time but may mediate.