Chiang Mai, in Thailand’s north, is considered to be a stronghold of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement the popular name for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship — UDD).
On August 29, 21-year-old local Red Shirt activist “James” Krissada Klaharn and his girlfriend Nongnuch Kampor were driving home at about 1.15am after a long day selling popular stickers at a roadside stall, when the killers struck.
A vehicle with its headlights off pulled alongside and sprayed their cars with bullets. Krissada was hit in the legs, abdomen and shoulder.
Nongnuch was also shot in the leg but was able to drive to hospital where Krissada was admitted with critical injuries. He died on September 4.
Krissada had served as a guard for Red Shirt leader “DJ Aom” Kanyapak Maneejak, a popular radio host in Chiang Mai who has been forced into hiding. Some Red Shirts believe his killing may have been an attempt to draw out DJ Aom and other leaders in hiding.
Krissada also served as a guard in the Bangkok protests, which were violently crushed by the military in May.
Local Red Shirts allege this is yet another extrajudicial killing carried out by the Thai military. Bullets and bullet casings found at the scene were from a US-made M16A1 military assault rifle used by the Thai military.
Krissada is the fourth Red Shirt who served as a guard in the mass protest camp in Bangkok to be killed since May. But, as yet, there have been no prosecutions of their killers.
Human rights activists have said there have also been many disappearances of Red Shirt activists since May, an August 21 IPS article reported.
Several radio stations and publications sympathetic to the Red Shirts have been closed down.
The repression has not stopped Red Shirts from continuing to protest. Thousands turned out for a funeral march for Krissada on September 6.
At the cremation ceremony, addressed by prominent Red Shirt leader and MP Jutaporn Prompan, a big banner saying “No peace without justice” was held up by the crowd.
UDD supporters said no mainstream newspapers dared to cover this story. ThaiRath covered it a few days after and received a warning letter from the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES).
At the funeral, the Red Shirts were forbidden to play a video tribute on CRES orders. The CRES also asked the temple’s abbot to move Krissada’s body to another temple, as the location chosen for the cremation ceremony was one of the royal temples.
However, the abbot refused.
Even bigger protests were planned around the country to mark four months since the May 19 massacre and four years since the 2006 military coup that ousted the last elected government headed by Thaksin Shinawatra.
The Red Sunday group, led by activist Sombat Boonngamanong, is planning the symbolic placing of red roses outside jails where hundreds of Red Shirts remain in detention since the May 19 crushing of the protest camp in Bangkok.
This follows a Red Sunday action in Bangkok on September 12 that drew 100 cyclists in red T-shirts matched by hundreds more who gathered at various points around the city.
On September 19, a mass motorcade from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was due to take place. Red Shirt supporters expected about 5000 people to gather in Bangkok for the start of the motorcade. About 5000 soldiers were reported to have been placed on standby to deal with this peaceful protest.
[Peter Boyle is national convener of the Socialist Alliance of Australia. Thanks to several Thai activists — who have to remain anonymous for their own safety — for their assistance in collecting and translating the material for this story.]
Below: Funeral march for “James” Krissada Klaharn.