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Democracy Update 24.4.13

UntitledDuring the UDD’s weekly press conference last Wednesday, co-leaders discussed the role of the judiciary in the development of Thailand’s fragile democracy.

The ongoing attempts by the Pheu Thai government to reform the post-coup Constitution, in order to align it with modern democratic practices, have attracted condemnation from pro-coup forces. 

A group of Red Shirts are currently staging a protest outside of the Constitutional Court in response to its decision to consider a petition regarding the constitutionality of the constitutional amendments that have been proposed by the government. The group is arguing that by considering the petition, the Court is impeding the powers of the legislative branch. The UDD has also previously pointed out that the judiciary in Thailand has a biased agenda and hinders the democratic process.

Co-leader Tida said,

If the court ignores the power of the legislative branch, it ignores the power of the people. In a true democracy, all the power should be with the people.

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Bailed Red Shirt Prisoners to Fight for Innocence

20130419_134325On Friday April 19th, four Red Shirt prisoners were released from Laksi prison on bail as they appeal convictions for the arson attacks on the Udon Thani provincial hall that occurred on May 19th 2010.

The provincial court in Udon Thani agreed to release Arthit Saithong, Kittipong Chaikung, Daycha Komkhum, and Buarian Pangsa, after seven witnesses supported the bail requests. Despite facing severe sentences of up to 22 years, the four are committed to proving their innocence in the appeal process.

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Democracy Update 17/4/13

IMG_2550At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, the leadership discussed plans for the Thai new year, as well as the ongoing commemorative events that will be taking place within the next month to mark the third anniversary of the brutal military crackdown on Red Shirt protests that killed over 90 people.

Thailand has started to wake up after the celebrations of Thai New Year, Songkran. In traditional Songkran spirit, the UDD leaders announced 3 “wishes” that they will work towards during the new year: amnesty, constitutional reform, and justice.

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Unhealed Wounds

On April 10th, the UDD held a day-long rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument to honour those who lost their lives during a brutal military assault on Red Shirt protesters 3 years ago. Despite the beaming sun, thousands came out to commemorate the tragic events that caused the deaths of 21 protesters, 5 soldiers, and Japanese cameraman Hiroyuki Muramoto. The resounding message was a powerful one: never again.

[From left to right] Suwimon with husband Bunjead and Ampon's mother Nang

[From left to right] Suwimon with husband Bunjead and Ampon’s mother Nang

But for the families who lost loved ones on April 10th 2010, the damage is already done. Thai Red Shirts (TRS) met with some of the families at the rally that were torn apart by senseless violence and are still waiting for justice.

Nang Tatiyarat, Suwimon and Bunjead Phungkinchan share the horrible fate of losing a son that night. Their sons, Ampon Tayirat and Terdsak Phungkinchan, were both slain by military bullets.

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Four Red Shirt Political Prisoners Transfered to Laksi

Red Shirt gathering outside Laksi Prison

Red Shirt gathering outside Laksi Prison

After intense lobbying by the UDD and Red Shirt activists fighting on behalf of political prisoners, the Ministry of Justice has recently agreed to transfer 4 convicted Red Shirt political prisoners from Bangkok Remand Prison to Laksi Prison.

UDD chairwoman Tida Tawornseth said the move is significant because Laksi was originally reserved for persons on trial for politically related offenses. The decision to transfer political prisoners already convicted of violating the Abhisit government’s Emergency Decree of April-May 2010 brings Laksi one step closer to becoming a prison for all political prisoners, she said.

However, the Ministry did not approve the transfer of lèse majesté (112) prisoners that were included in the UDD’s request. The decision demonstrates the devastating political marginalization of 112 prisoners. Even Mr. Yuttapoom Martnork, accused of lèse majesté by his brother, was not green-lighted for transfer. Since his arrest in September 2012, the court has denied him bail several times and he will have spent 11 months in Bangkok Remand Prison before the start of his trial in August.  

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Photo Gallery: April 10th Rally in Honour of the Dead

On Wednesday, up to 20,000 Red Shirts gathered by Democracy Monument in Bangkok for a rally organised by the UDD in honour of those who died during the brutal and illegal military crackdown of Red Shirt protests on April 10th 2010.

The rally started off with a procession of street performers and Red Shirts representing different regions of Thailand, heading from the Royal Hotel to Democracy Monument. In the afternoon, Buddhist monks led the UDD leadership and the crowd through a Buddhist ceremony in honour of the victims. The rally also featured an exhibition of photos and videos taken during the crackdown, as well as speeches by regional and national UDD leaders.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra also spoke to the crowd via a webcast. He offered his condolences to the families of the victims, and joined the UDD leadership in saying that the brutal suppression of pro-democratic forces must never again be allowed to take place in Thailand.

For an outline of what happened on April 10th 2010, visit the Thai Accountability Project.

See below for a selection of pictures of the event.

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UDD Political Schools In Context

IMG_1950Over the course of several months, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) have attended many of the UDD’s political schools. The latest school in the Northern province of Chiang Mai was the UDD’s thirteenth ever political school and more schools are scheduled for the coming months.

While the concept of “political schools” may have negative connotations for some readers, in this case they refer to gatherings akin to political party conventions. Much like party conventions, the UDD’s political schools are important venues for the exchange of ideas between the movement’s leadership and grassroots activists. They also serve to build strong local Red Shirt organizations that are vital to the movement’s long-term success as a vehicle for democratic change in Thailand.

At a previous event in Lamphun province, UDD co-leader Nisit Sinthuprai said,

The Red Shirt movement needs to start at the village level. We need a strong network of local committees that can work together to defeat the amaat system in Thailand.

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Free At Last

Pinit Chanarong (left)  and Saichon Paebua (right)

Pinit Chanarong (left) and Saichon Paebua (right)

Pinit Chanarong and Saichon Paebua made headlines last week when they were acquitted of the arson attacks on the Central World shopping centre on May 19th 2010. At the time of their release, they had spent three years in prison without bail. Thai Red Shirts (TRS) met with Pinit and Saichon to congratulate them on their release and to discuss life as a political prisoner, the taste of freedom, and hopes for their future and as well as the future of Thai democracy.

TRS: How does it feel to be out of jail? Did you expect this outcome?

Pinit: It feels great. I want to say that I expected to be acquitted this whole time, because I could not imagine serving a sentence for a crime I did not commit. But the fact that I had already been in prison for three years dampened my confidence. I am grateful that the judge had mercy on me.

Saichon: I am so happy! To be honest, I did not expect to be acquitted, I expected the worst. When the judge read out the verdict I could not keep back the tears of joy. But I am also thinking about my friends who are still in prison, I worry about them. We need amnesty for political prisoners, and it must be swift.

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