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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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Red Shirt Grassroots Speak Out

Thai Red Shirts (TRS) traveled to the province of Nonthaburi to hear from grassroots Red Shirt activists. The following is a summary of a discussion with more than 50 Red Shirts on the past, present, and future of their political activism.

TRS: Why did you first get involved in the Red Shirt movement?

Something went terribly wrong in this country in 2006. The injustice that we have suffered since the coup d’état compelled us to mobilize and organize.

TRS: Who among you voted for Thaksin Shinawatra?

[Everybody raises their hands]

TRS: Why did you vote for him?

He implemented policies that had an extremely positive impact on our lives. The 30 baht health care scheme in particular greatly improved our quality of living, allowing many of us to get the medical care we could not afford previously. 

The Village Development Fund also helped us build our community’s economy and infrastructure. The money was managed locally and collectively. Many of us work in agriculture so a loan system was developed to help people develop their crops.

Most importantly, Thaksin gave us faith in the democratic process and proved that politicians could respond to the needs of voters.

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Somyot’s Sentence Exposes the Dark Heart of Thailand

On the 23rd of January, a Criminal Court judge sentenced Red Shirt activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 10 years imprisonment for publishing two articles that violated Thailand’s notorious lèse majesté law, enshrined in article 112 of the Thai criminal code. Somyot’s arrest, detention, and verdict betrays Thailand’s disregard for the fundamental human rights that should be at the basis of any true democracy.

Detained for 21 months and denied bail 12 times, Somyot has had his human rights violated by the Thai judicial system from day one. Somyot, his wife Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, and many in the Red Shirt and anti-112 camp, firmly believe that his arrest in April 2011, under the Abhisit administration, was politically motivated. Not only was Somyot a prominent Red Shirt with a long history of activism on labour issues, he was organizing a petition to challenge, and potentially abolish, article 112. 

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UDD Outlines Four Tier Strategy for 2013

At a press conference on Friday, the UDD leadership outlined their four tier strategy for 2013. Each tier means to challenge a different consequence of the 2006 coup and its aftermath.

First of all, the UDD will prioritize its ongoing struggle for amnesty for political prisoners. UDD leader Tida Tawornseth called on the government to issue an amnesty decree within the next two months. The death of Red Shirt prisoner Wanchai Raksanguansilp on December 27th, 2012, has fueled the anger and frustration among Red Shirts who expected more action from the Pheu Thai administration.

The second tier is the fight for justice and an end to state violence  in Thailand. The murder charges brought against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban for their lethal and illegal response to the Red Shirt protests in 2010 are a positive development and the UDD will monitor the process closely. Nevertheless, the UDD believes that granting the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to open a preliminary investigation would help ensure a fair process for all.

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Charges Against Abhisit Far from “Far Fetched”- UDD Lawyer

UDD lawyer Robert Amsterdam has recently made public a letter addressed to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), dated October 31st 2012, which outlines the strong case for Mr Abhisit’s criminal liability for the deaths of April-May 2010.

The following summary was published on his website:

Social media is abuzz with reactions to an interview that former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave to the BBC. Looking flustered in answering the uncomfortable questions posed by interviewer Mishal Husain, Mr. Abhisit described the charges of pre-meditated murder recently filed against him as “far fetched.”

In light of the coverage generated by the BBC interview, we are releasing to the public the content of a letter my firm submitted to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 31 October 2012. The letter focuses exclusively on Mr. Abhisit’s criminal liability, providing a comprehensive treatment of Mr. Abhisit’s involvement and individual responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity in April and May 2010.

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Red Shirts Ask “Where is the Rule of Law?”

At a press conference on Friday, UDD co-leaders expressed their outrage over former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s ability to circumvent the rule of law by walking out of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) without signing and agreeing to the terms of his release after hearing his charges yesterday. The Red Shirt leaders were equally appalled by his continuing lack of respect for the victims of the military crackdown in 2010.

Abhisit and his former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban presented themselves at DSI offices on Thursday to deny the murder charges against them in regards to the death of taxi driver Pan Kamkong who was killed by CRES soldiers on May 15th 2010. However, they refused to sign a document accepting the conditions for their bail, which prohibit them from: leaving the country without the approval of the DSI; tampering with evidence; and obstructing the investigation. Despite this outright rejection of the legal process, they were free to go.

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Murder Charges About Accountability and Justice- UDD Lawyer

UDD Lawyer Robert Amsterdam

On Monday, UDD lawyer Robert Amsterdam argued in an article on his website that the recent murder charges brought against former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban are acts of legal justice, not politics as the Democrat party claims.

Amsterdam wrote the following:

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, with the assistance of media outlets eager to run with the Democrat Party’s official line, have rationalized the murder charges recently filed against them as part of a scheme to bring Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand. The charges, they claim, are designed to squeeze them into accepting an amnesty bill that would guarantee them immunity from prosecution in exchange for vacating Mr. Thaksin’s conviction on a dubious conflict of interests charge. They should be so lucky.

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