Thailand has once again descended down the rabbit hole, subsumed by another political crisis in which the nation’s fragile democracy is facing a destabilizing threat from coordinated network of elites related to the Democrat Party.
It is amazing to behold the rhetoric at play. Just three and a half years since the former government ordered the military to violently disperse a peaceful protest, resulting in the murder more than 90 Thai citizens, those same people responsible for the killings are now parading themselves under the flag of “rule of law,” “accountability,” and “reconciliation.” The victims must be turning in their graves.
The reason for this latest attempt at destabilization is an ill-conceived amnesty proposal, (which is guaranteed be voted down by the Senate), the Democrat Party network is seeking to use it as a pretext to apply the leverage of their activist judges and engineer a seizure of power.
As many are aware, a seizure of power in Thailand can take place through the military or judiciary. In today’s international environment, military coups and the threat of violence are generally frowned upon, though they cannot be ruled out. But it seems much more likely that the Democrat Party network will opt for the judicial coup, where some form of false charges or legal technicalities are mounted against the current government, backed by the coordinated acquiescence of civil society fronts in order to undermine elected leaders and “legitimize” a transfer of power that would not otherwise take place.
The network is also looking to capitalize upon the court ruling on the Preah Vihear temple dispute with Cambodia, a sensitive issue that inflames the passions of many Thai nationalists. They apparently see the controversy as an opportunity to fan the flames and incite disorder.
Since the April-May 2010 massacre, steps have been made toward accountability. Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been indicted on murder charges – which is the first time in the history of Thailand a leader has been held responsible for the death of citizens. But clearly more has to be done, which is challenging for a nation where civilian control over the military is more a concept on paper than a political reality.
It is important to take time to analyze where we are and what can be done for Thailand to navigate this present season of uncertainty.
Firstly, it is clear that the Yingluck Shinawatra government is under grave threat. The familiar opponents of the ruling party see an opportunity to gain momentum that they would not otherwise be able to summon by capitalizing on public distrust of the amnesty bill – which critically failed to address those serving jail sentences on convictions of lese majeste.
Secondly, the present government, in an attempt to maintain power, has come dangerously close to losing its legitimacy by depriving its core supporters of the fruits of representative democracy.
The current political crisis is a product of history. In the years since the 2006 military coup that removed the popularly elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s experience with democracy has been uneven. Elections are held, but sometimes with limited participation, as political leaders and parties have been repeatedly suspended and dissolved by coup-appointed judges, buttressed by an absence of freedom of speech. Thanks to the Democrat Party network, lese majeste has been weaponized against political speech, making it difficult for citizens to articulate their policy demands without fear of criminal charges.
Meanwhile the international media has given a free ride to would-be coup planners. Even coverage from the widely read New York Times, whose correspondent once literally stood feet away from Seh Daeng when he was assassinated (a murder which was never properly investigated), has fallen short of understanding the functioning of the Democrat Party’s network throughout the nation’s institutions. Other foreign correspondents have been instrumentalized as propaganda outlets for the elites simply because they have never travelled north of the Marriott Bangkok swimming pool.
It is a great pity that there is such a lack of awareness of how power is exercised by this network. As a system of governance, democracy in Thailand cannot be successful without rule of law, and the continued partisan activism on behalf of a number of Constitutional Court judges is a matter of grave concern. It is this lack of judicial independence that led the former government to unleash the military against the population without fear of consequence. Unfortunately, the amnesty bill, which may have been proposed out of good intentions, would only perpetuate this impunity.
The current Pheu Thai administration has repeatedly attempted to introduce constitutional amendments to restore representative avenues to their constituents, but they have been blocked at every turn. It is perhaps this frustration and desperation that brought forward the amnesty proposal, but like it or not, these actions were taken within the lawful context of democratic governance, and similarly should be resolved as such. Instead, the former leadership is delaying the issue to keep it alive while they essentially call for an elected government to be overthrown.
Having experienced firsthand the brutality of 2010, I will tell you that what motivated demands for accountability was not revenge or politics, but history. Thai history involves a cyclical process of repeated violence by the state against the population, followed by demands from the elite that the people forget. It is a plea for self-deception and forgetting that augurs poorly for Thailand ever moving ahead.
The failure to date to properly investigate the events of 2010 cannot go unremarked. If rule of law is to survive in Thailand, it is for the government to put principle above its interest of staying in power and properly expose the networks that have led to the violent repression of citizens seeking suffrage and representation.
If the government survives the present crisis, the UDD should demand nothing less than the full accountability for 2010 and international assistance in restoring the rule of law and bringing about long overdue constitutional change in Thailand.
When the dust settles from this crisis, the government may wake up and take more seriously their obligations to respect the interests of the electorate to whom they are accountable. For my part, the best demonstration of that would be for Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul to file a 12(3) acknowledgement with the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that for the first time, a real page could be turned in the history of Thailand.
But in the meantime, the Thai people will have to summon the determination to hold steadfast against this familiar incursion. Coups, both judicial and military, should exist only in Thailand’s past – they have no place in the future.
On the surface it seems as though the misnamed Thai anti-democracy and pro-military coup movement, the People’s Alliance for Democracy, has dissolved itself. On the surface, therefore, those committed to democracy should be rejoicing – the violent extremists in the PAD were certainly a block to a peaceful, stable Thailand. Yet we shouldn’t be fooled by the mass resignation of the PAD leadership last week. The extremists opposed to democracy once epitomised by the PAD are still looking for the ways and means to prevent the Thai people choosing their own popularly-elected leaders.
Step-forward, as if on cue, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. At every single turn of his leadership of the Democrat Party Abhisit has taken the path that leads his party further away from democracy. In 2006, knowing he would lose badly in the general election, he boycotted the vote. He then aligned himself with the PAD and shrank into silence when the military coup the PAD called for transpired in September 2006. Abhisit then led his party to electoral defeat in 2007 yet still managed to hold the Prime Minister’s role hostage for over two years, after more military machinations and another alliance with the violent extremists in the PAD. When Abhisit’s illicit role as PM was challenged he sent 1000s of Thai soldiers onto the streets of Bangkok, not once, but twice and such was his desperation to hang onto power he slaughtered dozens of his fellow Thai citizens to do so.
Given that track record it is therefore no surprise at all that Abhisit has now assumed the de facto leadership of the PAD. Abhisit’s speech to a few hundred hard-line followers a couple of days ago (24th August 2013) – a speech which came in the wake of the PAD leaderships’ resignation – made it clear that he would be now be taking forward the PAD’s ideas on “democracy”. Abhisit said he “saluted the PAD” and would “continue the PAD’s purpose of fighting against injustice and the Thaksin regime”.
Abhisit’s moves to place himself at the head of the relatively tiny remnants of Thailand’s extreme nationalist and anti-democratic forces are in keeping with his attempts to take his Democrat Party onto “the streets”. After his own personal failings to lead his party towards any kind of electoral success – he has effectively reduced the Democrat Party’s electoral support – the streets, and the kind of violent mob-politics associated with the PAD, could prove to be Abhisit’s final and desperate gamble.
However, no-one should assume the “ideas” and “purpose” of the PAD are finished. Abhisit, to his ever growing shame, has made it apparent that he wishes to carry on their work – which will ultimately fail – of destroying Thai democracy.
The purpose of this White Paper is to alert the international community to an ongoing assault—carried out largely under the standard of the Democrat Party of Thailand, but engineered by a broader coalition of groups hostile to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra—designed to remove a democratically elected government by illegal means.
This alert to protect Thai democracy is even more pertinent and urgent given the recent military coup in Egypt. The actions of the Egyptian Army bluntly revealed to any of those who were still in doubt how fragile burgeoning democracies can be, particularly in countries where a lack of civilian oversight and accountability holds sway. The insipid response of the international community to the Egyptian coup and the violence and deaths that occurred on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in the aftermath of the Egyptian Army’s actions lend a stark warning to what might occur in Thailand should anti-democratic forces take significant action.
The government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which was elected and duly constituted in July 2011, is responsible to protect its citizens from (among other things) crimes against humanity, such as the brutal slaughter of dozens of unarmed civilians under the Democrat administration of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during the “Red Shirt” pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok in April/May 2010. The Yingluck administration is working toward justice for those victims, and toward ensuring that no such atrocities occur ever again in Thailand. While the Thai government’s responsibility toward its citizens flows from basic principles of democratic governance, it is also enshrined in principles of international law, including the concept of Responsibility to Protect.1 Responsibility to Protect principles not only urge states to protect their citizens against mass atrocity crimes, such as the crimes against humanity inflicted upon the Thai citizenry during the 2010 Red Shirt demonstration; they also oblige the international community to encourage and assist individual states to meet those responsibilities. Further, if an individual state is failing in its duty, the concept of Responsibility to Protect calls upon the international community to take collective action within the framework of the UN Charter.2
Protecting innocent civilians from brutal slaughter is no simple task in Thailand, as doing so requires breaking a cycle of lawless coups and killings that dates back decades. The same groups that have been responsible historically for this cycle of impunity—the almost exclusive beneficiaries of the status quo that held before the first truly democratic Constitution was adopted in 1997—are now using every conceivable method to remove a duly elected government, primarily through an extra-parliamentary campaign of street action and judicial manipulation.
This White Paper describes the efforts by the anti-Thaksin coalition to undermine the results of the 2011 election, and it calls upon the international community to throw its full-throated support behind the Yingluck government as it strives to advance true democracy in Thailand, while preventing a repeat of April/May 2010.
The full White Paper can be read below:
Over the last few weeks a small but effectively managed and carefully strategised “protest” group has emerged on the streets of Bangkok and other Thai cities. Dubbed the “White Mask” group – because they have adopted the white V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask long associated with the progressive Occupy and Anonymous movements – the Thai incarnation is about as far from the notion of democratic accountability, spontaneity and progressive politics as anyone could imagine.
As New Mandala point out in two recent blog posts here and here the White Mask group are little more than a re-incarnation of the extreme right-wing violent nationalist groups that previously coalesced around the PAD, Pitak Siam and similar. These groups call themselves “anti-Thaksin” but their real enemy is democracy itself – the White Mask group are noted for making calls for the democratically-elected Pheu Thai government to be “overthrown”. The White Masks are also not shy of launching violent attacks on pro-democracy activists as this report in Thailand’s Khao Sod newspaper reveals – in central Bangkok two weeks ago they attempted to beat Red Shirt members with iron bars.
Such is the collusion between the White Mask groups and extreme right-wing sentiment that these masked activists have reportedly taken to the routine singing of a notorious neo-fascist Thai song entitled Nak Phaen Din or “Scum of the Earth”. In addition the leadership associated with the White Masks, such as “Green Politics coordinator” Suriyasai Katasila are beginning to make bizarre and outlandish claims that the Yingluck Shinawatra-led Pheu Thai government are “creating the conditions for a coup”.
What shouldn’t be underestimated is the White Mask group’s sophistication. The carefully calibrated air of contrived “spontaneity” gives them the image of a “grassroots” protest movement similar in tone to the Arab Spring groups of the last few years. Furthermore, their co-opting of the symbolism of the progressive Occupy and Anonymous protest movements has led to some benign – though deeply flawed – international press coverage. Such benign coverage is being further pushed by the Thai Democrat Party English language-mouthpiece, the Bangkok Post, who have gone to quite ludicrous lengths of deception to portray the White Masks as a legitimate protest group rather than as a confection of the most anti-democratic elements in Thailand.
So who is behind the White Mask group? The powerful and wealthy media mogul, Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham, founder of the Independent News Network and T-News outlets – both of which endlessly spout extreme-rightwing, anti-democratic invective – has emerged as one of the shadowy backers of the White Masks.
The Bangkok Post recently reported that Sonthiyan said that “that he supports the group, believes it is doing the right thing, and is confident it will continue to grow.” Sonthiyan went on to say that his company has been selling the White Masks to protesters and that “10,000 masks have been sold so far and orders are still coming in.” Yet Sonthiyan seems to be a bit out of step with his fellow Thais when he suggests that “Thaksin and his family must now ask themselves how they can continue to live in a place where people hate them.” Maybe Sonthiyan has conveniently forgotten the last five general election results stretching back 12years and the regular and large electoral democratic mandates the Thaksin-led political project has enjoyed and that the White Mask movement has yet to raise any substantial numbers on Bangkok’s streets?
The Thai White Mask group, whilst certainly exhibiting an increased sophistication in terms of how it portrays its message, is little more than the same reactionary, anti-democratic forces coalescing in a new, media-friendly form. It shouldn’t be underestimated but simply borrowing and co-opting the fashionable symbolism of global progressive protest movements won’t make it any less reactionary.
The democratically elected Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, gave a career-defining speech yesterday at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
In this speech she highlighted the forces in Thailand that oppose democracy and the brutal and bloody lengths they will go to in order to secure their illegitimate and continued dominance over the Thai people. We have posted PM Yingluck’s speech below and suggest all read it in its entirety.
Already the former and unelected Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has condemned PM Yingluck’s call for greater democracy in Thailand. This comes as no surprise – Abhisit’s main legacy is of a man committed to the destruction of accountability, the continuation of impunity and the subjugation of the Thai people. As Abhisit has done on several occasions in the past he reveals, once again, his complete lack of understanding of the most basic principles of democracy and rule of law. It is no great surprise he leads a broken party that remains unelectable and unable to carry out its basic democratic duties as the official party of opposition and, instead, is reduced to the worst kind of demagoguery.
Statement of Her Excellency Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 29 April 2013.
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Delegates to the Conference, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to begin by expressing my appreciation to His Excellency the President of Mongolia for inviting me to speak at this Conference of the Community of Democracies.
I accepted this invitation not only because I wanted to visit a country that has made many achievements regarding democracy, or to exchange ideas and views on democracy. But I am here also because democracy is so important to me, and more importantly, to the people of my beloved home, Thailand.
Democracy is not a new concept. Over the years, It has brought progress and hope to a lot of people. At the same time, many people have sacrificed their blood and lives in order to protect and build a democracy.
A government of the people, by the people and for the people does not come without a price. Rights, liberties and the belief that all men and women are created equal have to be fought, and sadly, died for.
Why? This is because there are people in this world who do not believe in democracy. They are ready to grab power and wealth through suppression of freedom. This means that they are willing to take advantage of other people without respecting human rights and liberties. They use force to gain submission and abuse the power. This happened in the past and still posed challenges for all of us in the present.
In many countries, democracy has taken a firm root. And it is definitely refreshing to see another wave of democracy in modern times, from Arab Spring to the successful transition in Myanmar through the efforts of President Thein Sein, and also the changes in my own country where the people power in Thailand has brought me here today.
At the regional level, the key principles in the ASEAN Charter are the commitment to rule of law, democracy and constitutional government. However, we must always beware that anti-democratic forces never subside. Let me share my story.
In 1997, Thailand had a new constitution that was created through the participation from the people. Because of this, we all thought a new era of democracy has finally arrived, an era without the cycle of coups d’état.
It was not to be. An elected government which won two elections with a majority was overthrown in 2006. Thailand lost track and the people spent almost a decade to regain their democratic freedom.
Many of you here know that the government I am talking about was the one with my brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, as the rightfully elected Prime Minister.
Many who don’t know me say that why complain? It is a normal process that governments come and go. And if I and my family were the only ones suffering, I might just let it be.
But it was not. Thailand suffered a setback and lost international credibility. Rule of law in the country was destroyed. Projects and programmes started by my brother’s government that came from the people’s wishes were removed. The people felt their rights and liberties were wrongly taken away.
Thai means free, and the people of Thailand fought back for their freedom. In May 2010, a crackdown on the protestors, the Red Shirts Movement, led to 91 deaths in the heart of the commercial district of Bangkok.
Many innocent people were shot dead by snipers, and the movement crushed with the leaders jailed or fled abroad. Even today, many political victims remain in jail.
However, the people pushed on, and finally the government then had to call for an election, which they thought could be manipulated. In the end, the will of people cannot be denied. I was elected with an absolute majority.
But the story is not over. It is clear that elements of anti-democratic regime still exist. The new constitution, drafted under the coup leaders led government, put in mechanisms to restrict democracy.
A good example of this is that half of the Thai Senate is elected, but the other half is appointed by a small group of people. In addition, the so called independent agencies have abused the power that should belong to the people, for the benefit of the few rather than to the Thai society at large.
This is the challenge of Thai democracy. I would like to see reconciliation and democracy gaining strength. This can only be achieved through strengthening of the rule of law and due process. Only then will every person from all walks of life can feel confident that they will be treated fairly. I announced this as part of the government policy at Parliament before I fully assumed my duties as Prime Minister.
Moreover, democracy will also promote political stability, providing an environment for investments, creating more jobs and income. And most importantly, I believe political freedom addresses long term social disparities by opening economic opportunities that would lead to reducing the income gap between the rich and the poor.
That is why it is so important to strengthen the grassroots. We can achieve this through education reforms. Education creates opportunities through knowledge, and democratic culture built into the ways of life of the people.
Only then will the people have the knowledge to be able to make informed choices and defend their beliefs from those wishing to suppress them. That is why Thailand supported Mongolia’s timely UNGA resolution on education for democracy.
Also important is closing gaps between rich and poor. Everyone should be given opportunities and no one should be left behind. This will allow the people to become an active stakeholder in building the country’s economy and democracy.
That is why my Government initiated policies to provide the people with the opportunities to make their own living and contribute to the development of our society. Some of these include creating the Women Development Fund, supporting local products and SMEs as well as help raising income for the farmers.
And I believe you need effective and innovative leadership. Effective in implementing rule of law fairly. Innovative in finding creative peaceful solutions to address the problems of the people.
You need leadership not only on the part of governments but also on the part of the opposition and all stakeholders. All must respect the rule of law and contribute to democracy.
Another important lesson we have learnt was that international friends matter. Pressure from countries who value democracy kept democratic forces in Thailand alive. Sanctions and non-recognition are essential mechanisms to stop anti-democratic regimes.
An international forum like Community of Democracies helps sustain democracy, seeking to promote and protect democracy through dialogue and cooperation. More importantly, if any country took the wrong turn against the principle of democracy, all of us here need to unite to pressure for change and return freedom o the people.
I will always support the Community of Democracies and the work of the Governing Council. I also welcome the President’s Asian Partnership Initiative for Democracy and will explore how to extend our cooperation with it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to end my statement by declaring that, I hope that the sufferings of my family, the families of the political victims, and the families of the 91people, who lost their lives in defending democracy during the bloodshed in May2010, will be the last.
Let us continue to support democracy so that the rights and liberties of all human beings will be protected for future generations to come!
Terdsak Phungkinchan was only 29 when the sniper’s bullet took his life. Three years ago today, on April 10th 2010, he fell, mortally wounded, onto the hard tarmac of a Bangkok street. The force used against Terdsak – despite it being very clear to the person pulling the trigger that his victim was completely unarmed and posing no threat to anyone – was deadly and meant to be so. The only word that can be used to describe this act is murder and my law firm are still doing all we can to bring the people responsible for this to justice.
There can also be no equivocation regarding an analysis of the force used against the Red Shirts at Kok Wua that dreadful night in April 2010 – it was designed, purely, to kill. And kill it did, with 21 Red Shirts falling in a hail of bullets fired from the guns former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had ordered onto Bangkok’s streets. In addition five Thai Army soldiers died, their lives ending in what can only be described as mysterious circumstances, whilst an investigation into the death of the Japanese cameraman, Hiro Muromoto, is still ongoing. All these acts left behind even more grief-stricken widows and mothers.
Without justice for all victims the tragedy of April 2010 is still being played out. Thailand is not yet at peace with itself and, since that night, the families of the dead have been left with more questions than answers.
To get a sense of the depth of feeling the April 10th Kok Wua Massacre arouses you need look no further than the remarkable Thai language book published by the Democracy Martyr Foundation whose title loosely translates as “The Dead Have a Face and Those Who Were Killed Had a Life.” This book gives voice to the victims of April 2010, a cry that must be heard if Thailand wishes to move towards true reconciliation.
Take Terdsak’s mother, Suwimon, who told the authors of this exceptional book that
Deep down, I still want to fight for my son because he was innocent – he didn’t deserve to die, he shouldn’t have been treated like that. I feel as if I couldn’t do much as we are just ordinary people… I will never forget this.
It is Suwimon’s words that we should meditate on as we commemorate the fallen of April 2010 – “I still want to fight for my son.” The mothers of the fallen Red Shirts, unlike the commentators, politicians and, dare I say it, lawyers, can’t just “forget” when it comes to the destruction wrought against their offspring. We can only continue to offer the likes of Suwimon support and solidarity in her struggle for justice.
Another victim of the Kok Wua Massacre was tailor Wasan Puthong (39). His young sister, Numthip, is also quoted in “The Dead Have a Face and Those Who Were Killed Had a Life” saying
Nowadays, I am still missing him as we had been working together for such a long time – whenever I turned, I saw him there because we were together all day all night…. It is hard for me to accept this.
Numthip’s comment are an apt reflection on the death of a brother who was taken down in such abhorrent circumstance. The lack of definable justice will continue to make it hard for victims of Kok Wua to just “accept this”.
Today my office had the honour of speaking to Wasan’s brother-in-law, Klin, and it his words we end on here. These words must be our banner as we mark another year where loved ones were taken from us.
There is still not justice as the perpetrators have not yet been held to account. We will continue fighting for this justice.
Letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Concerning Abhisit’s Criminal Liability
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.
The Wall Street Journal Asia edition has published my letter to the editor responding to their coverage of the murder charges filed against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The full text is below:
Your newspaper’s recent article gives ample space to the allegation that the charges of premeditated murder filed against Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsubhan are somehow “politically motivated” (“Former Thai Prime Minister May Face Murder Charges,” World News, December 7). The article, however, fails to point out that the charges are supported by a large body of evidence already in the public record.
My letter in response to Benjamin Zawacki’s misinformed dismissal of the ICC to investigate the massacres of more than 90 protesters in Bangkok in 2010 has been published by The Nation.
Commenting in The Nation last week, American lawyer Benjamin Zawacki opposes a Thai declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the killings and wounding of civilian demonstrators in 2010. Instead he argues that Thailand should ratify the ICC Statute. Unfortunately, Zawacki is ill-informed on the purpose, procedure, precedent and policy of accepting ICC jurisdiction.
On one point he is correct: Thailand should indeed join the other 121 nations that are now States Parties to the ICC. But ratifying the ICC Statute would grant the ICC jurisdiction only over future crimes. The only way to grant the ICC jurisdiction over past crimes is for Thailand to make a declaration of ad hoc acceptance of ICC jurisdiction, under Article 12.3 of the ICC Statute.
On September 17, 2012, the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) published its “Final Report” on the events of that took place in Bangkok in April and May 2010,1 when over 90 people were killed in military crackdowns against “Red Shirt” protesters. As predicted in filings submitted by legal counsel for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) dating back to October 2010,2 the TRCT’s long awaited report can only be described as an attempt to shield those who planned, approved, carried out, and oversaw the 2010 crackdowns from accountability. As detailed in these pages, the TRCT report does not uncover new evidence of any note, but offers a radical and highly selective re-interpretation of evidence already in the public record, absolving both the principals and the agents involved in the crackdowns of any responsibility for the death of protesters.
Far from living up to its mission of promoting reconciliation by uncovering the truth, the TRCT’s report underscores Thailand’s inability to end impunity, come to terms with the truth, and uphold its international responsibility to properly investigate incidents of state violence. The TRCT’s decision to blame the violence entirely on the protesters—and unidentified armed militants with asserted but never substantiated links with the UDD—is not just likely to further inflame Thailand’s deep social divisions, but effectively grants any future government a license to kill unarmed demonstrations. Some commentators who have been critical of the Red Shirts in the past reached the same conclusion, also calling the report “a license to kill” (bai anuyat hai kha).
Full paper below.