Thailand

Sombat Boonngamanong, a cultural activist and NGO organiser, was not a central leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (popularly known as the Red Shirts) when their mass protest camp at the Ratchaprasong intersection in the heart of Bangkok was bloodily dispersed by the Thai military on May 19. Thousands were injured and 91 killed in the crackdown. Hundreds remain political prisoners. But Sombat has since emerged as a popular figure in the dramatic Red Shirts' resurgence over the last month.
According to a report in Prachatai, a popular Thai newspaper, a woman was arrested at freedom bike ride by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship supporters (popularly known as the Red Shirts) in Thailand’s historic city of Ayutthaya for selling slippers with Thailand’s military-installed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s face on them. The slippers were printed with the message, “People died at Ratchaprasong” – referring to the May 19 military massacre against the Red Shirts’ mass protest camp in Bangkok.
On September 19, tens of thousands of pro-democracy Red Shirts returned to the Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok to remember the military coup that took place four years ago, as well as the murder of about 90 unarmed demonstrators in April and May. Then, many of the protesters were gunned down by army snipers near Ratchaprasong. Since the brutal killings by the military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva junta, there has been a climate of fear. Hundreds of political prisoners have been locked up and there is evidence of extrajudicial killings of Red Shirt activists.
On September 19, about tens of thousands of protesters from Thailand’s resurgent Red Shirt movement (popular name for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship), took to the streets of Bangkok to defy the regime. Klaus Crimson, whose photographs of this historic rally can be seen at www.links.org.au, told Green Left Weekly: “It was truly an amazing experience. By 9am it was pretty clear to me that it might grow into something big.
Thailand Troubles said on September 19 that a motorcade of 150 vehicles made their way from Bangkok to Chiangmai for a rally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), popularly known as the Red Shirts, that was expected to draw 10,000. A growing crowd of Red Shirts gathered since morning around Ratchaprasong Intersection, the site of the April-May mass protest camp of Red Shirts that was bloodily repressed by the military on May 19.
The statement published below was released by the Thai Red Australia Group for Democracy. You can add your name to it here. * * * Four years ago on September 19, the Thai people were concerned about a very damaging coup that toppled an elected government and resulted in the political and economic crisis that persists today. This historical event was followed this year, on April 10 and May 19, by two tragic massacres. The Thai military shot down pro-democracy activists in the streets of Bangkok.
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.
A statement by Thai Red Australia Group for Democracy

Four years ago on the 19th September, the Thai people were concerned about a very damaging coup which toppled an elected government and resulted in the political and economic crisis that persists to today.

Up to 20,000 supporters of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement rallied at a concert in the Thailand seaside resort city of Pattaya on September 4. It was one the biggest mobilisations since the military bloodily dispersed the Red Shirts’ mass protest camp in Bangkok in May, killing 91 and injuring thousands more. Red Shirt leader and Puea Thai party MP Jatuporn Prompan called on people to place red roses outside prisons around the country on September 17. Hundreds of Red Shirt leaders and activists continue to be detained.
Thousands of Red Shirt supporters rallied at a concert in the Thailand seaside resort city of Pattaya on September 4, in what was one the biggest mobilisations since the military bloodily dispersed their mass protest camp in Bangkok on May 19, 2010, killing 91 and injuring thousands more.
Internationally recognised legal standards are being flagrantly ignored in the treatment of political prisoners from the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. The prisoners have been detained by the Abhisit Vejjajiva military government since the bloody crackdown against unarmed demonstrators in May.
On July 6, the Thai government approved the extension of an emergency decree in 19 provinces, which includes many in the heartland of the pro-democracy Red Shirts in the country’s north-east. The extension came a day after the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) recommended the government immediately lift the decree and hold fresh elections. But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who came to power through the army’s intervention, crushed hopes for new elections weeks ago.
News from Thailand is alarming: hundreds of people detained for violations of the emergency decree, including children, injured people chained to their hospital beds and several assassinations of local leaders of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. The country is moving deeper into an authoritarian and military regime. The elite are even considering postponing elections for six years, thus giving Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva the possibility of leading the country for ten years against the will of most Thai citizens.
Hundreds of Thais and an Australian remain in jail, as the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to repress the grassroots pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. Some Red Shirt protesters are still in hiding. This follows the full-scale military assault on May 19 that ended a six-week protest by thousands of Red Shirts in the commercial centre of Bangkok. Australian Colin Purcell, of Perth, has been caught up in the repression and is still detained by police.

When the White House is quiet as protesters are butchered in the streets of Bangkok, suspicions are raised. Silence often equals complicity. One can only imagine what the US government’s response would be to a Venezuelan government slaughter: the US media and US President Barack Obama would loudly condemn such an act. The history of US-Thailand relations explains why. During the Vietnam War, the US used Thailand as one of the main “anti-communist” bulwarks in an area that included China, Vietnam and other countries that were challenging capitalism.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist in exile in Britain after being charged with lese majeste (insulting the monarch). He is a member of Left Turn Thailand. Ji Ungpakorn’s blog, Wdpress.blog.co.uk, covers the struggle for democracy in Thailand, and the brutal repression meted out by the military backed regime. On May 25, the blog listed the names of all the pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters being hunted down by the regime — 66 arrest warrants had been issued and 21 people were already in custody.

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