Politically, the Democrat Party represents Thailand’s conservative forces who seek to hold power over the country both within and outside of the system and with no mandate from the people. These conservative forces rely on various stale apparatus such as the army, judges, appointed senators and independent organizations which were, in fact, appointed by military coup maker. The Red Shirts have struggled against all these elements in order to return power to the people and nullify the effects of the 2006 coup. The Red Shirts have struggled against both military and judicial coups equally and our demands are based on a rejection of political and legal inequality.
In 2010 our demands were the dissolution of an unmandated Parliament and the return of the democratic mandate to the people as was our basic political rights according to the constitution. Simply put, we demanded the ballot boxes but the elite’s army sent us coffins.
Since 2007, more and more people have been joining Red Shirts rallies with number growing from thousands to hundreds of thousands – our latest Khaoyai rally attracted no less than 100,000 people. On 19th May 2012, the second anniversary of the 19 May 2010 crackdown, the Red Shirts attracted more than 200,000 people to a rally in downtown Bangkok. In comparison, the numbers who attend conservative rallies has decreased dramatically and rarely equals more than a few hundred people. This confirms that our position has a legitimacy which, over time, have gained a greater understanding and acceptance from the people.
In 2007, when the referendum for the military sponsored constitution was held, 10.7 million people have voted against it. Furthermore, the various parties dissolved by the courts, such as the People Power Party or Thai Rak Thai, secured millions of votes in numerous general elections since 2001. Quite often this was above the 15.7 million secured by the present Phue Thai Party government in the July 2011 election. For example, 19 million people have voted for Thai Rak Thai in 2005 with huge numbers being drawn from voters in the North and Northeast of Thailand.
In response to the resistant, Thailand’s conservative forces have further escalated their violence means from the 2006 coup until the crackdowns of 2009 and 2010. In 2009 we failed to retrieve the bodies of our dead but in 2010, we were able to retrieve 92 bodies, a figure which eventually grew to 98 bodies and more than 2000 of our people were injured. The total cost of damage to Red Shirts property, mainly our member’s automobiles parked in and around rally sights, which were riddled with bullets, totaled tens of millions of baht. More important was the pain inflicted on the hearts and minds of our members after the army used war weapons and snipers to put bullets through our heads and our chests.
The usage of weapons as if it was full-blown warfare against a foreign state, images of those who were killed, reports of people being held on serious charges and denied eventually brought people to gather in front of the Supreme on 19 February 2011 There they placed flowers to protest against the court. It became self-evident that there was problem in every aspect of the judicial process; people were charged with serious allegations without solid evidence, investigations were not conducted consistent to the rule of law and the defendants were not informed clearly about the charges they faced. At one point, we sent a letter to the ICC asking it to send observers to Thailand because we didn’t believe that the people would be treated consistent with a rule of law which would be consistent with international standards for fairness.
After 2 years people connected to political conflicts are still incarcerated. Some of them have been given excessive sentences of up to 38 years in cases which have clearly failed to have been investigated thoroughly. Some of them are charged with serious allegations like “terrorism or arson” without solid evidence. Some of them, whom are accused of violating the draconian Emergency Decree, had been incarcerated longer than the actual usual penalty related to the charges. Up until now 62 are still incarcerated; 5 of them are suffering from forms of mentally illness, another 6 of them are now being treated for mental disorder and 1 has died whilst in prison. Shackling and chaining is regulation and these political prisoners have been detained with other convicts who committed serious crimes.
However, under PM. Yigluck Shinnawatra’s government, after pressure from the UDD, 47 of those who have been incarcerated in relation to the present political conflict have been moved to a separate detention facility.
Those who have been incarcerated on lese majeste law charges have not yet been moved to the separate detention facility or given bail. Some of them have been coerced to “surrender and confess” in order to finalize their cases – as they are being held almost indefinitely and without proper resolution.
Having no hope for the future, they confess in order to have a chance to apply for “royal pardon” from the King and get their sentences reduced. In contrast, criminal cases relating to the pro-conservative “yellow shirts” who have been charged for similar allegations, such as seizing Bangkok’s airports in 2008, seizing the national TV station broadcasting content urging people to violently overthrow the government and seizing the government house thereby disrupting the administration for more than 100 days, all of which is very serious offences in Thai law, have had little progress. In four years the only action taken has been a summons to acknowledge their charges and most have been released on bail. In one case, a yellow shirt supporter received a suspended sentence for deliberately driving into and then backing over 5 policemen. In Red Shirt cases, the courts completed proceeding within 6 months of arrest, after denying bail and often issued harsh sentences. It seems as though justice in Thailand has been decaying.
During the 2010 protests the UDD followed the principles of our peaceful policy. Yet it was clear that PM. Abhisit Vejjajiva who had spent time living in the infantry 11th army regiment barracks since the peaceful Red protest began on March 13, 2010 was intent on using violent means to crackdown on the protest.
When Abhisit’s government attacked our basic rights to freedom of expression by shutting down our satellite TV station, the Red Shirts attempted to take back this right by occupying the Thaicom satellite TV station at Lad Loom Kaew, Patumtani, just outside Bangkok. This is where the crackdown began although the situation at this point was still under control. Tears gas was shot at the protesters, which was ineffective as the wind blew it back onto the soldiers. The soldiers then gave up their weapons to the protesters. Later we held a press conference and handed these weapons to the metropolitan police. On this occasion we also saw solid evidence that the soldiers prepared many guns with laser-sighting.
Despite invoking the Security Act, the Democrat Party government decided to unlawfully and unreasonably declare, on April 7, 2010, an Emergency Decree. The plan was to intentionally crackdown on people without any condition or reasonable grounds because people were unarmed and most of them were farmers and low-paid employee whom only carried plastic clappers and demanded the government “dissolve the parliament and return power to the people” because Abhisit had taken power wrongfully after the courts disqualified the democratically elected government led by former PM, Somchai Wongsawat.
Abhisit-led government was formed after army involvement forced MPs from parties dissolved by the constitutional court judges in late 2008 (these judges were appointed by interim constitution drafted by the military junta government in 2006), to join with Abhisit in a coalition government. Our call for a parliamentary dissolution and new election was reasonable and the only reason to impose the Emergency Decree was to enact an advance plan to violently crackdown on the Red Shirts.
Abhisit stayed in the 11th Regiment barrack for 3 months in order to plan this violent crackdown instead of “using political means to resolve a political problems”. This aim to engage in a violent crackdown was mentioned in the journal of Army Training Command, “Senatipat” which stated that the “political plan unifies with military plan in terms of the crackdown operation on people – the plan doesn’t aim to negotiate but to crackdown on the protesters”. Abhisit had decided to use violence after the soldiers abandoned their weapons at Thaicom satellite TV station. To do so he used the power granted by the Emergency decree, as evident in the order on April 10, 2010 (one day after the clash at the Thaicom satellite TV station), and began using troops equipped with war weapons which led to the death of 98 people to date.
After this incident the Red Shirts moved their protest to Ratchaprasong the government then further elevated the intensity of the crackdown by mainly using the army and now viewed the protesters as being engaged in urban warfare. They then ordered the army to perform the full crackdown operation, and to use the kind of war weapons and snipers that would normally be used in full warfare. Once more this was mentioned in the “Senathipat” journal (Vol. 59 issue 3), by a Thai Army Colonel who used the penname “HuaNhaKlung”. Writing a conclusion of the entire operation this officer stated that it was with great pride the Army were successful in their violent crackdown on the Red Shirts and that this had been achieved by using a full-scale warfare operation with real bullets and a systematic plan that took in the entire city. After April 10, 2010, the soldiers had been trained to engage in this violent crackdown and this training and engagement happened continually until May 19, 2010. This army crackdown operation was laid out thoroughly and systematically-the Abhisit government after a meeting between Thai senators and UDD repesentatives offered to end the protest the next day. Instead Abhisit’s government insisted to continue with their planned crackdown which was carefully prepared in advance.
The Abhisit’s government claim that there was an armed element in the protesters is untrue and they have failed to provide evidence to prove this claim. The UDD had no policy to use weapons, and we insisted on a peaceful protest and peaceful unarmed means. Until now, the police investigators have failed to find the “Blank Shirts” (a group that Abhisit’s government created) or any evidence/witnesses that backed up their claim that the Black Shirts existed.
The police and forensic science investigation into the death of soldiers at Dinsor Road near Democracy monument on April 10th has led to the conclusion that they were killed by a “M67 grenade” not by a “M 79” as Adhisit’s government claimed. The throwing range of an M67 is between 40 – 100 meters yet the area immediately surrounding the soldiers hit by the grenade was secured by 15 troops. The grenade hit one major general, one colonel and two conscripts – the shrapnel fragments found in the bodies of the colonel and two conscripts was, according to the police report, surced from a M67 grenade. The bloodstains found in the area also matched with the DNA of the coloner and the two conscripts – there were also 2 holes created by the explosive impact of the grenade which, according to the experts, further indicted the use of an M67 with some M67 fragments also being found in these holes.
The claim that a widely distributed image of a Black Shirt holding an AK47 on Dinsor Road is also untrue – the image was taken at Tanao Raod, which is a few km. away from Dinsor Road. Therefore the claim that an M 79 launched by the Black Shirts killed five soldiers on April 10, 2010, is completely untrue, as their death didn,t result from either an AK 47 or M79. The crackdown operation that lasted from April 10, 2010 until May 19, 2010 had been well planned with proper army training in widespread areas all over Bangkok – communications around the Ratchaprasong protest site were cut off, the delivery of food stuffs, water and medications was forbidden, the route to the protest site was cut off and only people who wished to leave the site was allowed out. Snipers were stationed on 10 different high-rise buildings and then shot-to-kill as 70 % of people were shot in the head and chest. “Live Fire Zone” was also declared on many main important roads such as Rama 4 Road, Ratchapralop Road, Din Daeng Triangle Road, Samyan Road Lumpini Road, etc.
On May 19,2010, the last day of the demonstration, at least 6 people were shot dead in the pre-agreed sanctuary area at the WatPratum temple even though the demonstration was called off and UDD leadership were detained in the Naresuan army camp in PrachuapKhiri Khan province. One of these 6 people, a medical worker known as Nurse Kate, was shot 11 times. Nurse Kate was killed by the bullet which hit her first in the head but, nonetheless, she was still shot 10 more times. In usual circumstances a temple area is a religious sanctuary, strictly forbids any killings, others are nurses and medics. These people were ordinary citizens who quite rightly thought as the protest was over, that the soldiers wouldn’t attack and kill them inside a temple. Photo-journalists who wore press symbols also became targets as it was necessary to stop them from doing their duty. This was Abhisit’s plan to brutally murder people in order to maintain his power as prime Minister. Of course this kind of incident has happened repeatedly in Thailand during the 80 years since the 1932 Siamese Revolution. Since that time Thailand has still not yet had real democracy, and continues to be ruled by dictatorial powers-many coups have been staged and people have been killed in asimilar fashion to April/May 2010 on several occasions.
Thailand has ended up in this circle because the murderers have not been held to accountable by the legal system. The courts repeatedly accept the power of the coup leaders and make comments such as “the successful coup is the highest power in the country”. Therefore, the coup leaders can arbitrarily write any law. The crackdown in April/May 2010 – which is perceived as achieving the highest level of success and is proudly elevated as the model for suppressing civilians,was the most violent one in Thai history.