Thailand: Violence against civilians has deep roots

March 2, 2014

Indiscriminate violence against ordinary people, whether they be involved in politics or not, is always appalling and serves no progressive or democratic purpose. The recent killing of children is even worse.

We have no idea who has been committing these latest deadly atrocities in Bangkok or in Trat and it would be foolish to make wild guesses. It could be those who favour a dictatorship and wish to create conditions favourable for a military coup against elected President Yingluck Shinawatra.

It could also be disgruntled hotheads from the Red Shirt movement, which is drawn from the poor and has fought for democracy, who are angry with the impunity of right-wing mobs lead by the Democrat Party's Suthep Thaugsuban.

However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the violence in Thailand’s political crisis was started by the military when they used force to overthrow the democratically elected government in 2006. The military and Democrat Party then shot down Red Shirt pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok in 2010. Among the dead was a young boy.

Since the start of the year, Suthep’s thugs have been openly carrying automatic weapons in the streets and they have been filmed firing on unarmed civilians. They used systematic violence to intimidate voters.

Yet no one has been arrested and the conservative elites, mainstream academics, NGO leaders and mainstream media have done all in their power to condone or ignore Suthep’s mob violence.

Violence and intimidation has been used by the anti-democratic side against progressive academics and activists like Sombat Bun-ngarmanong.

We must also put this political violence in a wider context. Over the past month, civilians including children have been gunned down in the Patani region, probably by the Thai security forces. Sometimes the security forces pose as separatists, like in the most recent incident when a crude note was exposed as not being written by anyone with a proper knowledge of Yawi or Malay.

Systematic state violence against civilians has taken place in 1973, 1976, 1992 and in 2004 and also in former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s war on drugs. The real source of violence is the Thai ruling class. They create the conditions to breed more violence.

The solution is to establish standards of human rights by punishing the state actors and “big men” who commit these crimes. Today, that means bringing Suthep, top generals, former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva (installed by the 2006 coup) and Thaksin to court.

Democratic space needs to be expanded and strengthened. All those who have sought to destroy democracy since 2006 are only shedding crocodile tears over the recent tragedies.

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