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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.

(more…)

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UDD Congratulates Mr Sukhumband on election victory

UDD co-leaders congratulated Mr Sukhumband on a fair and clean victory in Bangkok’s gubernatorial elections on Sunday.

Dr Weng said,

We would like to congratulate Mr Sukhumband and welcome him again as the governor of Bangkok.

The UDD leadership welcomed the election as proof that good democratic practice is getting stronger in Bangkok.

Dr Weng added,

We want to thank Bangkokians for defying the rain and going out to vote. It is crucial for us to express this right because, in so doing, we strengthen democracy in Thailand.

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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Democracy Update

During the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, co-leaders discussed the ongoing push for amnesty, efforts to observe the upcoming gubernatorial elections, and plans to expand political education initiatives across the country.

The UDD continues to push for the Amnesty Decree to be passed by the cabinet as an emergency resolution for political prisoners on both sides of the conflicts. Other groups have proposed alternative pathways for amnesty, such as Nitirat’s plan to add an amnesty chapter to the Constitution. While the UDD welcomes amnesty for political prisoners by any means possible, the co-leaders argue that an Amnesty Decree would offer the quickest solution.

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Red Shirts Gear Up for Bangkok Election

Hundreds of Red Shirts gathered at UDD headquarters on Sunday to prepare for the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Bangkok. Similar seminars will be held over the coming weeks to train 10,000 Red Shirt volunteers who will monitor polling units throughout the province for foul play on March 3rd.

Sunday’s participants stated that their intentions are to ensure a clean and fair election. 

One Red Shirt commented,

This election is really about protecting Thailand’s fragile democracy. We hope to set an example for the whole country.

Another volunteer reaffirmed that the UDD is mobilizing for democracy, not for a particular candidate,

It doesn’t matter who wins the election so long as it is won fairly.

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United for Amnesty

At the press conference on Wednesday, UDD co-leaders discussed the necessity of amnesty for political prisoners in Thailand and the UDD’s short-term plans.

Amnesty for political prisoners of all colours, with the exception of rally leaders, is currently the main priority for the UDD. The organization has submitted a Draft Amnesty Decree proposal to the government which could provide speedy amnesty to those who are suffering in prison due to charges stemming from the current political conflict.

Jatuporn Prompan exclaimed,

Our brothers and sisters have been stuck in Laksi prison for too long. We must not be selfish and prioritise our own success over their release.

(more…)

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Red Shirts Fight For and Against Political Systems, Not Individuals

On Saturday the UDD held a political school in Korat, the latest in a series of political education initiatives that the UDD has set up in its commitment to promote democratic participation.

Throughout the day, UDD co-leaders engaged with 2,000 local grassroots activists on the core beliefs and principles of the Red Shirt movement. While the day’s most pressing issues of amnesty for political prisoners and amending the constitution were discussed, the school focused on the movement’s long term goal of overcoming the amaat power structure that continues to undermine democracy in Thailand.

The amaat system is based on an old elite network of patronage  that survived the abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It comprises Thailand’s old moneyed elites, military generals, and high-ranking civil servants.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth explains,

The amaat system depends on military and economic power to protect the interests of the few. The system holds back economic and technological developments, and hinders social mobility. The amaat are stuck in the past.

(more…)

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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. 

(more…)

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