Irish Time

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thailand Voices in the Shadow of Another Military Bloodbath

The Thai Government and military are preparing for another attack on the protesters in Bangkok, Thailand. Their spin doctors are in overdrive preparing the Thai people for another atrocity and have labelled the protesters as terrorists, to legitimize and sanitize another bloodbath.

The Protest site has been designated a danger zone, due to the stockpile of weapons and the "terrorists" congregated in the area claimed Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd yesterday.

He said rally organisers admitted, they were supported by "unidentified warriors", who were ready to resort to violence, in order to counter-attack the Army's forces. Last Saturday a number of weapons were stolen from soldiers and might end up inflicting casualties in another round of violence, he added. He said the authorities were trying to restore normality by dislodging the Reds from the Rajprasong area and that they were now prepared to deal with live ammunition fired by the "terrorists" from the red shirts' side.

"Please rest assured that the law will definitely be enforced, in any operations, soldiers and policemen will try to avoid losses or, if that is not possible, to contain the losses within acceptable limits," he added. He said police were preparing to enforce arrest warrants issued against 24 red-shirt leaders.

Natthawut Saikua, one of the 24, said the red shirts were preparing a "welcoming party" if the government cracked down on protesters. "I confirm the red shirts will not waver if the government is to launch a new round of anti-riot operations early next week," he said, adding that the red shirts would not disperse before the dissolution of Parliament.

Red-shirt chief security officer Aree Krainara said he had doubled the number of guards to protect the leaders and the rally site.

Opposition Party political spokesman Prompong Nopparit led surviving relatives of what he said were 30 dead victims to file a police complaint charging the prime minister and other authorities with murder related to last Saturday's "bloodbath".

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan has said the funeral for the victims would be postponed until the completion of legal proceedings. Under Thai law, the bodies must be kept, pending the completion of an investigation into the killings, he said, vowing to bring culprits to justice before the expiry of the statue of limitations in 20 years. He said the red shirts would start 900 legal cases related to Black Saturdays bloodbath.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said the Prime Minister has no intention of resigning or dissolving Parliament, to pave the way for a new election. He maintained doing so would damage the country long term.

"If the government still wants to re-take this area, we can do nothing except wait. We have overcome fear. Nothing can scare us anymore," said red-shirt leader, Nattawut Saikuar.

Pressure is still mounting on Thailand's government to stand down with 23 people now dead. The head of the Thai army has called for parliament to be dissolved. The country's election commission says Prime Minister Abhisit's party can be charged with misusing donations.

People in Bangkok Talk

Daung , Bangkok

My husband and I were at the demonstration on Saturday. I had not supported the red-shirt movement before then.

My husband said the soldier's gun had live rounds because there was no adaptor on the barrel
But after the government shut down the People TV station, we were only seeing the government's side of the story on their own channel, so we went to see what was happening. It was peaceful for hours before the trouble started. The soldiers had been sweating in the afternoon sun so we gave them some of our water. We were in the front line.

A helicopter dropped the first tear gas at about 1700, then about two hours later they dropped more. Even with a damp cloth over my face it hurt, especially because I wear contact lenses.
At about 1930 the troops started walking forward. My husband saw one soldier who was on the tank unlock an M16 gun. My husband said the weapon had live rounds because there was no adaptor on the barrel.
Some media reports said the red-shirts had guns too, but it's not true. The soldiers started hitting us, my husband was fighting back.
I saw many people lying on the ground, some were bloody, some were in shock from the tear gas. I had to leave when the tear gas got too much.
I didn't join the red-shirt demonstration to support Thaksin; I joined because I don't like the Democracy Party.I think we should have new elections, but I think the government will try to hold onto power instead.
If the red-shirts choose violence I will not support them any more. We joined them because they are fighting peacefully.

Ekasit Paosila, Bangkok

The news on the ruling party's illegal donations means parliament may have to be dissolved.
I'm not pleased about this. There is no one better qualified to rule than Prime Minister Abhisit; I support him totally. I would rather parliament stayed as it is. The red-shirt mob are causing a lot of problems; they behave as if they own Bangkok.

They always claim to be peaceful and say any bomb-throwing or gun-firing etc is done by someone else.
The weekend events were totally unexpected. I think the protesters were expecting rubber bullets, but the soldiers were certainly not prepared to receive live ammunition.

There is talk about a third party being involved. There is video showing men wearing black with their faces covered carrying machine guns. They were firing from the mob, we presume at the soldiers. Of the 23 people killed, five were soldiers, but many more soldiers are seriously injured in hospital. At the same time, there may have been some people against the red-shirt mob, who were firing from rooftops. I think the majority of people in Bangkok are against these red-shirt gatherings, but I don't know how many would come forward to say so. They are typically non-committal.

Polkrit Thanetjindarat, student, Bangkok

I have supported the red-shirts for three years and am convinced that they fight for real democracy and not just for Thaksin.I support them because the government does not support democracy, Thailand is like a military state now. We would like to see parliament dissolved, and power given back to the people so they can choose their own government by themselves.
Will this happen? I think the government will hold onto power for as long as they can, because they know that if they hold an election, they will lose. It's like they don't dare to listen to the people's voice.

Press and media are controlled by the government; they say the government and the military is right and they don't report how many people died at the weekend. I know 23 people died because I saw this on a private TV station, not the government one. The protesters have the right to protest, but the soldiers have no right to use a gun, even when they're angry. And the government should know not to let them.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he had issued orders for soldiers to be equipped only with shields, batons and tear gas.

"They were unarmed, so some of them were killed," he said.

This conflicts with reports from several reporters who witnessed the atrocity including a BBC journalist who saw soldiers carrying and shooting high velocity guns.

Underneath the propaganda war the bigger picture of the military's defeat and stress is now a major factor.

"There are some divisions in the armed forces," said Prof Surachart Bumrungsuk, a military and politics expert at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "Some units don't want to be involved in such a crackdown, others wanted it to be more assertive.

Human Rights Watch urged the Thai government to keep its promise to set up an independent commission to investigate last weekend's atrocity. Five soldiers and 18 civilians including a Japanese Reuter's cameraman were killed.

All parties should immediately cease political violence, the group said, and the government should hold those responsible accountable. It also called for an end to censorship of a satellite television station, more than 10 radio and television stations, and 36 internet sites.

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