Thailand: What would end the violence?

May 17, 2010
Red Shirts carry coffin and picture of a slain protester

May 17

If the military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajia dissolved parliament, announced fresh elections and ordered a cease fire, the violence would end immediately and the Red Shirts would all go home.

Since the start of the latest bloody crackdown on May 13, the death toll in Bangkok, as of May 17, is 35, all civilians, except one air force personnel, all killed by the army. If you include the deaths from the April crack down, Abhisit is now responsible for 65 deaths with 1669 injured in order that his military-backed government can stay in power.

The deaths include paramedics, news reporters and at least one 10 year old boy.

The army is using assassination squads and snipers to deliberately gun down unarmed civilians. The government continues to lie about the events and has decided that it is OK to shoot anyone in the centre of Bangkok.

UDD (Red Shirt) leaders have repeated their offer of talks and their request for an immediate cease fire. The UDD request for United Nations mediation in any talks is because there are no neutral institutions in Thailand.

The National Human Rights Commission, NGOs, judiciary and most academics are all supporting the government and military.

Red Shirts are standing firm, both at Rajprasong and around the outside of army check points in Bangkok. Many protest sites are springing up in Bangkok and the provinces.

The government has had to announce emergency decrees in nearly 20 provinces.

Censorship is widespread and the government is employing teams to hack facebook and other internet sites. You Tube has allowed the government to remove videos of the events taken by locals.

There are reports of workers discussing strike action, but we do not know if this will happen.

Children of Red Shirts have been moved to a nearby temple with the help of the police and the Red Cross.

Abhisit, his government ministers, the head of the army and local army commanders should all face murder charges.

The Abhisit’s government can only cling to power by shooting civilians, announcing a state of emergency in a quarter of the country, and censoring the media and internet.

If the government wants to claim legitimacy it should submit to the wishes of the people through a general election and prove that it has legitimacy.

The UDD leadership has called for an immediate cease-fire and talks with the government. This would also end the killing and violence.

Yet Abhisit has refused.

Instead he and the army generals have sent snipers and assassination squads into the centre of Bangkok to kill unarmed civilians in their so-called “live firing zone”.

The government continues to lie about the military actions and continues to lie that the Red Shirts are “armed terrorists”. Numerous media reports from the BBC, CNN and ABC show this not to be true.

One important reason why the government will not end the violence is that they know that they would lose an election. They were never elected in the first place and are only in power because of the army and the judiciary that have repeatedly frustrated the democratic process since the 2006 coup.

The government, the military, the palace, the majority of the business class, the judiciary and the top bureaucrats are the elites.

For years, they have used their extra-constitutional power to exploit and repress the majority of the population. They have shot down pro-democracy demonstrators in 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009 and now in 2010.

This is a class war. But only the naive believe that class war is a simple matter of rich against the poor.

The Red Shirts represent workers and small farmers. They are the people who have created the wealth in Thailand, but they have not been able to enjoy the benefits.

Thailand is a very unequal society. Their hopes were raised when millionaire Taksin Shinawat’s Thai Rak Thai Government offered a universal health care scheme and pro-poor policies.

They were inflamed when the elites stage a coup against this elected Government in 2006. Now they are standing firm and facing the armed might of the ruling class.

For the above reasons, the Red Shirt protest in the centre of Bangkok is legitimate, even if it disrupts the commercial life in expensive shopping centres and luxury hotels.

Anyone who believes in democracy and social justice should support them.

Let us not get side-tracked:

1. Abhisit's Government was NEVER elected. It came from a process started by the 2006 military coup. That is why they are very afraid of an election.

2. The Red Shirts are a mass movement of the poor. They want democratic elections. It is totally legitimate to stage peaceful protests for this demand.

3. Abhisit and the Army turned Bangkok into a war zone and started the violence. They have indiscriminately killed unarmed protesters by using snipers to shoot at civilians. Nearly forty are already dead from the actions of the army in the last few days.

4. Dissolving parliament and holding democratic elections would put an end to the protests. That is what any responsible leader would do. Return power to the people. So why is Abhisit refusing and answering with live bullets?

5. The UDD have offered talks if the Government orders a cease fire. This has been dismissed by the Government.

Judge news reports and the commitment to the truth by journalists on the basis of these 4 points. Judge foreign governments by their public positions on Thailand in this crisis. Judge academics and NGOs on their positions.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist forced into exile for the crime of “insulting the monarchy”. He is a member of Left Turn Thailand and maintains his blog features regular updates and analysis on the situation in Thailand.]


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