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(Updated May 20) Thailand: The anger of the people is justified; Tyrants cling to power over dead bodies

Bangkok, May 19, 2010.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

May 19, 2010 -- Now that the official protest has been drowned in blood and stopped [read Giles Ji Ungpakorn's accounts of the May 19 assault as it unfolded, HERE], there will not be peace because there is no justice. The anger of the ordinary people has finally erupted into violence with numerous buildings being set of fire in Bangkok and the provinces. People are also trying to use any means to fight the army. There are reports that government buildings, banks, the stock exchange, luxury shopping malls and pro-military media are all being set on fire.

All this is totally justified.


1. The government and the army have repeatedly used armed soldiers, assassination squads, snipers and tanks to kill unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators since April. The death toll will easily reach 80 with thousands injured.

2. This state-sponsored violence against civilians was carried out in order that Abhisit Vejjajiva's military-backed government could stay in power and avoid elections for as long as possible. It was never elected in the first place. The government is a product of military and judicial coups since 2006.

3. The Red Shirts have repeatedly offered talks and compromises, yet the government has answered with bullets.

4. In a democracy, the people should be the ultimate decision makers, not the military, the elites and the palace. Any demand for democratic elections is totally justified, even if it disrupts shopping centres and luxury hotels.

5. Mealy mouthed so-called non-violent groups could never bring themselves to put the blame entirely on the shoulders of the government, the military and royalist elites, despite the fact that the violence was from the army. They never put their weight behind the huge struggle of the UDD leadership to try to maintain a peaceful and disciplined protest. This is because these organisations supported the coup in 2006 in the first place. They allowed the government to claim that there would be no peace until the protests stopped.

What YOU can do. Don't forget the prisoners

May 20, 2010 -- I often get asked about what people can do outside Thailand to help in the struggle for democracy and social justice. After the appalling events of the past few days we can all help in the campaign against the Abhisit government’s misinformation in our local media. We can also help support any campaign to bring these bloody rulers to justice and any campaign for free and fair elections.

But a new priority now, is to defend the political prisoners. The Red Shirt leaders are facing the absurd charges of “terrorism”. They are also accused of trying to overthrow the monarchy. Although the belief in a republic is not a crime, especially after the fact that the king refused to say anything to stop the bloodshed, the top Red Shirt leaders have never expressed anti-monarchy views.

Equally important, we must not forget and ignore the hundreds of ordinary Red Shirt people who have been rounded up by the military and thrown in jail. They will face a number of different charges, but they must all be seen as illegitimate and political charges, even if they involve fighting back physically, blocking roads or even setting fire to buildings. It is the oppression and brutality of the military and the elites which is the root cause of any violence among the Red Shirts.

We cannot rest until they are all released. So we can all support any campaign for the prisoners when such campaigns are organised.


* * *

Update, 03.25 hrs Sunday, May 16, 2010, Bangkok time -- Earlier on Saturday, unconfirmed reports indicated that Abhisit Vejjajiva's soldiers had shot dead at least 50 people. Later, 22 named deaths were confirmed by the Erawan emergency centre, and 172 injured (including one Canadian, one Polish, one Burmese, one Liberian). But an official from the centre says that the real death toll is higher but cannot be reported at the moment.

Po-tek-tung emergency service official says that there are at least 14 corpses in the Ratchaprasong area which cannot be retrieved because of the danger of being shot at by the army; one of their crew has been killed. That would take the death toll to 36 (

* * *

May 15, 2010 -- Bangkok is bathed in blood, yet again. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Abhisit Vejjajiva's soldiers have shot dead at least 50 people so far since. The latest military attacks on protesters resumed on May 13. Hundreds have been injured. The government and military say there are 500 "terrorists" at the protest site in Bangkok. Earlier they said that they would use snipers to shoot "terrorists".

The only terrorists are in the government, the army and the palace.

The tyrants say that the Red Shirts are determined to overthrow the monarchy and therefore it is justifiable to kill them. So having a monarchy is an excuse to kill anyone who fights for democracy and social justice?

Various government spokespeople, including Abhisit's academic-for-hire Panitan Wattanayagorn and censorship boss Satit Wongnongtuay, continue to lie and lie again, claiming that troops are only firing in self defence. Yet all press reports show indiscriminate shooting of unarmed civilians, including a 10-year-old boy, a paramedic and foreign news reporters.

Splits are appearing in the security forces with reports of some police or army units returning fire with the advancing troops. This is indeed a civil war situation and the government cannot hope to control the situation. Red Shirts are determined to stand firm. Millions of people are extremely angry with the government, the military and the monarchy.

Fake human rights groups call on "both sides" to stop the violence. Yet it is only one side that is using lethal violence against unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. Even Reporters Without Borders demands that "both sides" guarantee the safety of reporters. How can Red Shirts guarantee anyone's safety when they are being murdered in cold blood.

Many so-called news reports write that troops fired on "rioters". No one is rioting except the army. Others talk about "protests turning violent". It is not the protesters who are violent.

Unarmed pro-democracy protesters are being systematically murdered in order to keep Abhisit and his military-backed government in power. The king is silent as usual. His only job, apart from counting his wealth, is to legitimise every bloody act that the army commits. Yet so-called analysts write that he has "held the country together". The fact is he has supported every crack down on democracy. He is weak and spineless. That is why millions of Red Shirts are becoming republicans.

The United Nations has just selected Thailand to be on the Human Rights Committee. What a joke! But what can one expect from a body controlled by warmongers.

Red Shirts throughout the country are standing firm in the bloody fight for democracy, social justice and human dignity. I salute them!

* * *

May 16, 2010 -- Some basic facts about the violence in Bangkok

1. Abhisit's government was NEVER elected. It came from a process started by the 2006 military coup. That is why they are very afraid of an election.

2. The Red Shirts are a mass movement of the poor. They want democratic elections. It is totally legitimate to stage peaceful protests for this demand, even if it disrupts a shopping centre for two months. Military coups, undemocratic governments and censorship are illegitimate.

3. Abhisit and the army turned Bangkok into a war zone and started the violence. They have indiscriminately killed unarmed protesters by using snipers to shoot at civilians. Nearly 40 are already dead from the actions of the army in the last few days.

4. Dissolving parliament and holding democratic elections would put an end to the protests. This is what any democratic government would do in this situation. That is what any responsible leader would do. Return power to the people. So why is Abhisit refusing and answering with live bullets?

Judge news reports and the commitment to the truth by journalists on the basis of these four points.

Judge foreign governments by their public positions on Thailand in this crisis.

Judge academics and NGOs on their positions. 

What would end the violence in Bangkok?

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

May 18, 2010 -- If the military-backed government of Abhisit Vejjajia dissolved parliament, announced fresh elections and ordered a ceasefire, the violence would end immediately and the Red Shirts would all go home.

In capitalist democratic countries, when there is a crisis, dissolving parliament and calling elections is a normal way to defuse serious tension. In the 1970s British Prime Minister Edward Heath called elections when faced with a massive strike wave. In 1968 the French government called elections in the face of a crisis. The Abhisit’sg overnment can only cling to power by shooting civilians, announcing a state of emergency in a quarter of the country and censoring the media and the internet. If the government wants to claim legitimacy it should submit to the wishes of the people through a general election and prove that it has legitimacy.

The UDD (Red Shirt) leadership has called for an immediate ceasefire and talks with the government. This would also end the killing and violence. Yet Abhisit has refused. Instead he and the army generals have sent snipers and assassination squads into the centre of Bangkok to kill unarmed civilians in their so-called “live firing zone”. Sixty-five people have been killed since April and nearly 2000 injured. Among the dead are paramedics, journalists and at least one ten year-old boy. The government continues to lie about the military actions and continues to lie that the Red Shirts are “armed terrorists”. Numerous media reports from the BBC, CNN and ABC show this not to be true.

One important reason why the government will not end the violence is that it knows that they would lose an election. They were never elected in the first place and are only in power because of the army and the judiciary that have repeatedly frustrated the democratic process since the 2006 coup. The government, the military, the palace, the majority of the business class, the judiciary and the top bureaucrats are the elites. For years they have used their extra-constitutional power to exploit and repress the majority of the population. They have shot down pro-democracy demonstrators in 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009 and now in 2010.

This is a class war. But only the naive believe that class war is a simple matter of rich against the poor. The Red Shirts represent workers and small farmers. They are the people who have created the wealth in Thailand, but they have not been able to enjoy the benefits. Thailand is a very unequal society. Their hopes were raised when millionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai government offered a universal health-care scheme and pro-poor policies. They were inflamed when the elites staged a coup against the elected government in 2006. Now they are standing firm and facing the armed might of the ruling class.

For the above reasons, the Red Shirt protest in the centre of Bangkok is legitimate, even if it disrupts the commercial life in expensive shopping centres and luxury hotels. Anyone who believes ind emocracy and social justice should support them.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist currently in exile in Britain. He is a member of Left Turn Thailand and maintains a blog at]

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