Red-shirts return to Ratchaprasong for anniversary of deadly 2010 crackdown

This story was updated at 6:45pm May 27, 2011.
Additional/ edited text in blue type.

One year after the violent military crackdown against red-shirt (เสือ้แดง) anti-government protesters in the heart of the Bangkok business district more than 10,000 of the groups faithful gathered at the Ratchaprasong intersection today, May 19, 2011, to mark the deaths of more than 90 people last April and May.

Joining the gathering at the Ratchaprasong protest site were the families and loved-ones of those killed during the 69-day long protest which saw 92 people killed, including 11 soldiers and police and two foreign journalists, while another 1,800 sought treatment for injuries they sustained.

Particularly moving were the blank, expressionless stares of the young children of those killed, who for the past year have lived with the realisation that their fathers will not be walking through the door again to play with them, or give them the loving hug that children need and which only a parent can give.

Some of the 10,000 plus red-shirt (เสือ้แดง) supporters in front of Central World Ratchadamri Rd., Bangkok for the anniversary of the military crackdown which killed more than 90 people in 2010.
Some of the 10,000 plus red-shirt (เสือ้แดง) supporters in front of Central World Ratchadamri Rd., Bangkok for the anniversary of the military crackdown which killed more than 90 people in 2010. Photo: John Le Fevre
Periodic heavy rain failed to deter the enthusiasm of red-shirts (เสือ้แดง) at Ratchaprasong to commemorate the deaths of those killed during the 2010 protest. Photo
Periodic heavy rain failed to deter the enthusiasm of red-shirts (เสือ้แดง) at Ratchaprasong to commemorate the deaths of those killed during the 2010 protest. Photo: John Le Fevre

Likewise the widows of those killed during the 2010 red-shirt protest have seen their lives change dramatically, the token few baht handed out by the the opposition Pheu Thai Party (PTP) and the Royal Household Bureau long since spent on household necessities, in a country where inflation has skyrocketed from -.90 per cent in 2009 to an estimated 3.30 per cent last year.

Unlike members of the police force or military who were killed during the 2010 red-shirt protest, the widows, fatherless and brother-less receive no ongoing government support, though some local red-shirt leaders from the provinces where people come from who were killed, such as Kwanchai Praipanna in Udon Thani, attempt to ease the burden as much as possible by hosting regular fund raising activities.

According to information released by the Government more than 117,923 bullets were used by the Royal Thai Army (RTA) during the 2010 red-shirt protest, of which 6,620 were “rubber bullets”, 2,120 were “sniper bullets”, and the remaining regular RTA issue rounds.

A preliminary report (Thai language ony) by (previously unheard of) Marginalised Monsoon Group (กลุ่มมรสุมชายขอบ) on the violence between May 13 and May 20, 2010 shows that 78 percent of deaths were caused directly by gunshot wounds Рmany others were the indirect result of gunshot injuries – with 77 percent of those killed sustaining gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest.

Coinciding with the main action on the red-shirt Ratchaprasong stage a separate group of red-shirt supporters joined with the families of the six people shot dead inside, or while attempting to get inside, Watt Pathum Vanaram – a designated safety zone – after the red-shirt leaders called off last years rally as the protest degenerated into a combat zone, RTA snipers clearly visible on rooftops around the red-shirt protest site and buildings and tire barricades burning across the city.

Despite several parallel running inquiries into the violence that accompanied the 2010 political protest in Bangkok, not a single person has been identified as being responsible for a single death ‚Äì the red-shirt camp refusing to acknowledge armed elements were inside it’s barricaded area and the RTA refusing to admit the presence of snipers, or that its troops shot dead unarmed civilians (not all of the casualties were part of the protest), despite there being ample photographic evidence to the contrary.

Thailand’s ruling elite unperturbed by a few more widows or fatherless children

UDD co-leader Natthawut Saikua waves to red-shirt (เสือ้แดง) supporters gathered at Ratchaprasong to commemorate those killed in the Thai military crackdown in 2010.
UDD co-leader Natthawut Saikua waves to red-shirt (เสือ้แดง) supporters gathered at Ratchaprasong to commemorate those killed in the Thai military crackdown in 2010. Photo: John Le Fevre

As with previous hard-line military crackdowns on political protests in Thailand, most notably the 1992 “Black May” protests when at least 52* people were killed and the 6th October 1976 bloodbath at Thammasat University where the official death toll was 46*, no one has expectations that any of these inquiries will produce the name of a single individual responsible for one death.

Just as in the past, Thai politics has shown a willingness to ensure the status-quo of power remains in the hands of a select few, while those who do the dirty work of those in power know they can act with impunity, their rewards coming by way of government contracts, military promotions and parliamentary seats.

After more than a decade of relative political calm, the power-holding elite of Thailand have again demonstrated that just like the US National Rifle Association (NRA) stance of “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands”, power change in Thailand will not come easy. Until then the RTA and power-holding elite are unperturbed by a few more widows or fatherless children.

Ends:
© John Le Fevre, 2011

Footnote: *The figures quoted above are official government figures. Reports by eye-witnesses and various independent investigations put the death toll much higher.


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Bangkok political protests • red-shirts • เสือ้แดง • Fabio Polenghi • Pheu Thai Party • Royal Thai Army • กองทัพบก • Human rights • Murder • Thailand current events • Thailand military • กองทัพไทย • Thailand politics • การเมืองไทย • Paisol Tiplom • Boontham Thongpui
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John Le Fevre

Deputy editor, Thailand & GMS editor at The Establishment Post

John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 35 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and copy editor.

He is currently deputy editor and Thailand / GMS region editor for The Establishment Post

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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