In response to our requests seeking to collect evidence and testimony of the Thai army’s conduct in its violent crackdown against mostly unarmed and peaceful protesters, we’ve had a significant number of volunteers sending in letters, photos, and video depicting the facts of how events unfolded. Below is a message and series of images from one photographer, who for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous, which depicts the final hours and minutes of the protest rally at Ratchaprasong on May 19, as the leaders remained peaceful, delivering speeches on stage (at risk of sniper fire) while at the same time the army surged passed the security checkpoints. This person contacted us because he said believed “it is very important to get this story out, to counter the massive and sophisticated disinformation campaign by the Thai military and government that attempts to paint these people merely as “terrorists” and ignorant hired thugs.” I couldn’t agree more.
***ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT 2010***
Message from freelance photographer: I wanted to forward to you a small photo essay of low-resolution images captured on May 19th, contrasting the Red Shirt leaders (Nattawut Saikua and others) on stage at Ratchaprasong during the hours of roughly 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, peacefully awaiting the army assault while Thai army troops advance past their checkpoint at Sukhumvit and the Chalerm Mahanakhon Expressway. Of possible investigative interest, I have also attached two images of Thai army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams who were at this checkpoint at about 2:00 PM. Within an hour of this sighting, a powerful explosion occurred forward of the checkpoint in the “no man’s land” near the area of the first Red Shirt barricade. At first I thought the army was blowing up the barricade but later discovered it completely intact. It has occurred to me that many of the “mystery explosions” that occurred during the week may well be the work of the Thai army as a psychological operation aimed at creating the “terrorist” image of the Red Shirts, to justify the assault. The official “explanation” is that improvised explosives were hidden by the Red Shirts in the barricades that required being rendered harmless, however, it was clear to me that this explosion did not occur at that barricade – it was fully intact.
Another image of particular interest is the one with three soldiersin a pickup truck – one of them has an unusual black watch cap and iswearing an unusual black Level IV protection armored vest to protectagainst rifle fire. This may well be one of the army sniper teamsoperating in the Red Shirt protest zone. During my photography on the19th, it became clear that any foreign journalist with a camera hadbecome a target. Fabio Polenghi, an Italian photographer who had passedme by at the Ratchaprasong site was subsequently killed by well-aimedsniper fire. I believe the attacks on photojournalists andother media members were intentional, to prevent honest reporting fromthe scene that would contradict the official versions given in thenightly news broadcast by the military. Finally, while the governmentand army is making a show of finding M79 grenades and other weapons atthe site, the images of two Red Shirt volunteers holding primitivecardboard tubes mounted on sticks are in stark contrast – these can onlybe used to fire more or less harmless fireworks and not militarygrenades or munitions.