red shirts

The pictures of thousands of Thais crying and wearing black after the death of King Pumipon might lead a sane person to conclude that most Thais were political half-wits with a slave-like mentality. That would be a wrong conclusion.

We have to factor in the royalist military repression. Anyone criticising the king can be jailed under the draconian lese-majeste (insulting the monarch) law. Added to this is the green light given by the junta for mobs of fanatical royalists to “deal” with dissidents.

It was obvious from the start that the aims of Thailand's military junta, which seized power last month, were not about a sincere attempt to restore peace between the two opposing sides in Thailand’s political crisis.

How could it be when the military were part of those who wanted to pull down the democratic system from the start?

The military staged an earlier coup in 2006, wrote a new, less democratic constitution, and appointed half the senate and most of the members of so-called independent bodies.

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.

Popular Thai newspaper Prachatai has reported that, a woman was arrested on October 3 at a freedom bike ride by United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship supporters (popularly known as the Red Shirts) in 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.

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.

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.

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