Military threatens Thai opposition

Wednesday, August 5, 1992

Military threatens Thai opposition

By Chris Beale

The Thai military is attempting through intimidation to cover up the extent of the massacres in May. Death squads have threatened prominent academics and activists trying to compile an accurate list of people "missing" as a result of the violence.

One victim of this intimidation is the rector of the prestigious Mahidol University. Threats to the safety of his family forced him to resign as chairman of the university's Hotline Centre, an agency coordinating lists of the body count from nine different sources, including the government's own Interior Ministry.

"Once when I was away from home", the rector told the Thai media, "they called my wife, telling her my plane had crashed".

Then there is Dr Tochirkarn, a prominent figure in the Confederation for Democracy. This broad-based organisation helped spearhead the massive protests which toppled the government of prime minister General Suchinda. Following a series of death threats, Dr Tochirkan's car was doused with acid when his wife parked it near his clinic.

It is hardly surprising that most humanitarian organisations have stopping reporting who has been lost or found.

Equally unsurprising is the fact that the list of "missing" seems to be shrinking. It is now down to 627. Yet immediately after the crackdown, and despite heavy intimidation of medical staff, 11 agencies gave a total of 1986.

The truth is whispered in the streets: Suchinda's troops killed a thousand people on the night the Royal Hotel was stormed, and many more were killed the night and day before, including a New Zealander.

However, the most prominent Thai to go "missing" disappeared 11 months before Suchinda's crackdown in May. Thanong Po-arn, president of the Labour Congress of Thailand, vanished on June 19, 1991. He had been under surveillance by the police and military.

Members of the US Congress and US trade unions have been asking Thai authorities where Thanong Po-arn is. These requests have been met with a deathly silence.

Meanwhile, the head of the armed forces, Air Marshal Kaset Rojananin, has been making thinly veiled threats that his troops will stage another coup if the election result on September 13 is not to the generals' liking. The military does not want to see "lousy" politicians in power, Kaset said recently.

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