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A Week in Review: April 10-16, 2010

Democracy Monument

Former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson once said, “A week is a long time in politics”. Well the last seven days in Thailand have given us a lifetime’s worth of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Read our week in review here...

Saturday April 10, 2010 will go down as another black day in Thai history. Tragedy struck when the government finally lost patience with the blatantly criminal activities of the ironically named United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and its red-shirted supporters.

Having exercised admirable restraint and patience in the face of weeks of extreme provocation and lawlessness, the government simply could not allow the protestors to continue with their illegal occupation of two of Bangkok’s busiest thoroughfares and main business districts. Hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees were being prevented from earning an honest living, while residents in the area were being terrorised by the mob.

Unfortunately, the government allowed itself to be lured into a trap when it finally ordered the army to clear the red-shirted demonstrators away. Under both government orders and a clear reluctance to injure their fellow compatriots, the army were pursuing a policy of minimal force. As many of the soldiers also hail from the same parts of the country as the majority of the UDD supporters, they are even referred to as watermelons: green on the outside but red on the inside.

However, these reluctant soldiers were met by increasingly violent resistance that included the use of both firearms and grenades. A total of 24 soldiers, civilians and reporters needlessly lost their lives and almost 1,000 were injured as the violence escalated to the point where the army was forced to withdraw to prevent further loss of life.

The majority of deaths were apparently caused by snipers and while it is far from clear who was responsible, sinister forces were clearly working to create further division in Thai society and destroy the possibility of a peaceful outcome.

Following the deaths, the red shirts stooped to new levels when they raided hospitals to seize the bodies of the fallen to be paraded like macabre trophies and further incite their already indoctrinated mob. When an announcement was made to red shirt supporters that six more bodies than expected had been found, it was greeted with a cheer. A CHEER!

And when the mother of one of the victims requested that her son’s body be returned to his home in Isaan so that the family could mourn their loss, she was prevented from doing so lest the mob lose one of its martyrs. The reds even pretended to parade the bodies around Bangkok two days later, yet in truth they were carrying empty coffins as the bodies were undergoing autopsies.

While it is hard to believe that the government would have ordered the killing of its own citizens as this would only create martyrs and benefit the opposition’s propaganda campaigns, the fact remains that the army was apparently armed with more than enough weaponry for riot control.

Following the army's hasty retreat, the Bangkok Post reported that red shirts captured 116 riot shields, 105 batons, 80 body armour suits, 9 M-16 rifles, 25 tavor rifles, 580 rubber bullets and 8,182 M-16 rounds as well as a number of abandoned armoured personnel carriers. However, the army also left behind 6 anti-aircraft guns with 600 rounds!!! For crowd control?

Fortunately, things quietened down in the following days as both sides took stock.

Tuesday saw the beginning of the three-day Songkran festival that marks the traditional Thai New Year. Having seen their city held under siege, Bangkok’s silent majority came out in their thousands to celebrate one of the most fun-filled festivals in the world in defiance of the red shirts.

Friday April 16 saw the latest twist in the red shirt saga when police attempted a raid on the SC Park Hotel where five UDD leaders were staying. However, word of the raid reached the red shirts’ rally point and they quickly mustered a couple of thousand supporters to race to the hotel.

Not only did they force the raid to be abandoned, but they also took two senior police men as hostage. The day will best be remembered, however, for the comic scenes of overweight UDD leader, Arisman Pongruangrong, escaping from his third floor balcony by being lowered down on a rope.

Looking back over the week, the tragedy is that the deaths have seemingly been for nothing. There is so much wrong on both sides to believe that the stalemate will be resolved by either house dissolution, as the reds hope to bring about, or the evacuation of the red shirts, as the government desires.

Unfortunately, this looks like one tragedy that is destined to be continued...

Paul Snowdon – April 17, 2010

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Have your say...

14 Sep 2015, 16:03
If you have a cause then you can make money from that cause. Or you can choose to just act out on that cause wihoutt making a penny.My cause is helping people get on in life. I try to make things better for them when I come across people that do need it. For instance, I like older people and always remember that they were once young and carefree. Helping them by simply visiting them does me a lot of good. I don't make money out of my cause although it makes me feel better.
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