The Office of the Attorney-General decided the former prime minister and former deputy premier should be charged in court for the street clashes that pitted soldiers against protesters in Bangkok.
The two men face charges of issuing the orders that led to deaths and injuries, OAG spokesman Nanthasak Poonsuk said. Since both men are MPs, they have immunity until parliament closes.
The OAG said it had sufficient evidence including accounts from witnesses and orders to the then Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation to clamp down on the protesters. Mr Suthep was in charge of the now-defunct centre on behalf of Mr Abhisit.
The street rallies led by the red-shirts to oust the Democrat Party-led government led by Mr Abhisit, then the prime minister, ended on May 19, 2010 with deaths and injuries of demonstrators and soldiers, and several buildings in Bangkok and other provinces burned down.
Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said that the opposition leader and the Surat Thani MP were not surprised at the move by prosecutors, adding that the OAG must take full responsibility for the decision to indict the pair.
Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep will fight to prove their innocence in court and will not seek amnesty to clear themselves of the allegations, he said. The two were ready to take the punishment deemed fit by the court if they are found guilty, Mr Chavanond told a press conference, reiterating that their stance against the blanket amnesty favoured by the Pheu Thai Party remained unchanged.
The OAG decision was welcomed by human rights groups.
"This is unprecedented," Sunai Phasuk, Thailand representative of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said. "This is the first time a Thai prime minister has been indicted for a crackdown."
The indictment comes as government pushes for a broad amnesty for everyone involved in the political turbulence since a coup toppled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.
The revised amnesty bill was on Monday endorsed by the House committee vetting it, with a vote of 20 in favour and seven against. The vote came after the panel decided on Oct 18 to consider changes to the bill article by article.
The original draft bill proposed by Pheu Thai Party MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hemma suggested that amnesty should only be granted to protesters. His edition excluded protest and military leaders from any amnesty including Thaksin and those in government responsbile for ordering the crackdowns.
But former Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham Prayuth Siripanich, who is deputy chairman of the committee vetting the bill, proposed changing the legislation to grant a blanket amnesty, when the bill was scrutinised before its second reading.
"The amnesty would completely derail efforts to bring justice to the relatives of the victims of the 2010 violence," Mr Sunai said.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday strongly opposed amnesty for himself and said soldiers were also victims in the rallies as they too were shot.
"Don't give me an amnesty. I will fight the case," Gen Prayuth said, adding that he could only speak for himself, and that his personal position on the issue could not reflect the views of other soldiers involved in the protests.
"Men in black" were accused of firing bullets and grenades at soldiers in April and May 2010, leading to a score of injuries and deaths among troops. The assailants were believed to have received military training.