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Thailand: Return of the Red Shirts -- big protests mark massacre anniversary

A huge crowd mobilised at Ratchaprasong Intersection to mark four months since the May 19 massacre of pro-democracy protesters. Video by Richard Barrow.

By Thailand Troubles and Peter Boyle

September 19, 2010 -- While a motorcade of 150 vehicles made their way from Bangkok to Chiangmai for a rally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), popularly known as the Red Shirts, expected to draw 10,000, a growing crowd of Red Shirts gathered since morning around Ratchaprasong Intersection, the site of the April-May mass protest camp of Red Shirts that was bloodily repressed by the military on May 19. Ninety-one people were killed and thousands were wounded. Hundreds of Red Shirts remain in detention. There were also protests around the world (reports will be posted in the comments section below, as they come to hand).

When many thousands openly protest their support for a cause labelled terrorist by a government willing to use deadly force to suppress those who question its writ it is hard not to conclude that the spirit of the movement is far from broken.

The Red Shirt movement demonstrated that this afternoon and evening when they turned Ratchaprasong, site of a two-month sit-in protest that was finally brought to an end by troops using deadly force on the May 19, 2010, into a sea of red once again, evoking the heady days of March, April and May. The graffiti, handwritten notices and banners were defiant, angry and confident, a mix of accusations and condemnation, demands and questions. The mood was joyful with singing and cheering, clapping and dancing. But amid the smiles, the feelings of solidarity, were not a few faces sad and serious. As ever people were polite and courteous, talking eagerly with new acquaintances.

These pictures relayed by Rajprasong News via Twitter, and from Thailand's Troubles blog that follow, tell the story of the gathering crowd in Bangkok.

Road filled up!

14:38 Crowds of more than 5000 now occupying Ratchaprasong.

16:39

Crowd now in "tens of thousands".

According to Rajprasong News the police estimated the crowd as 10,000 at 4pm, but other estimates were higher, especially leading up to 5pm.

4 years 4 months

September 19, 2010 -- Thailand's Troubles -- Today was for the Red movement a commemoration of those killed on the May 19, 2010, by troops under the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, of the rather misnamed Democrat Party, and the coup of September 19, 2006, when the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by troops serving the interests of an elite cabal which eventually engineered the government led by Abhisit.

His government has since the bloody day of 19 May made much of reconciliation and harmony but done precious little for justice. The arrogance, disdain and ignorance showed by him and those he represents and is associated with does not bode well for the future of Thailand. If there is any need of the reminder of the depth of feelings, the frustration and anger it comes no larger than the charred wreck at CentralWorld Mall and its Zen Tower, which were torched in a final spontaneous act of defiance by the remnants of the protest a few hours before sunset on May 19.

Today's protest took place beneath that 19-story exclamation mark.

The government insists people of the Red movement simply don't understand. The government is right. People don't understand. They don't understand why they should accept double standards. They don't understand why they should be denied justice. They don't understand why their choice at the ballot box should be annulled by the power of an unelected minority. They don't understand how they can be citizens of Thailand if their voice expressed at the ballot box is silenced by those who will talk electoral politics but when it doesn't go their way will walk the way of the gun.

The government, for now, appears to be in a stronger position. It may hang on for a very long time. It will probably find a way to delay and evade holding an election. Or the end may come rather sooner. Even the strongest regimes can turn out to be brittle when many people stand up in public to say enough. The fall of autocratic states in Europe in 1989 culminating with the collapse of the Soviet Union is an example of what can happen. Alternatively, if rulers and their acolytes and supporters decide to resist matters may take a nastier turn as they did in China and Indochina during the 20th century and in various European states starting with France in 1789. What will follow in Thailand is anybody's guess but it would be brave person who would bet on the status quo.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
My gang will fight on and will win.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Only those who with something to fear, perhaps blood a on their hands, might disagree?

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
A good question.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
I know you are scared of the people.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Release [our] leaders now now!

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Abhisit is not the only one with an image problem.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Murderer.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
An alternative view of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Children, mothers and fathers of some of those killed receive a steady stream of donations.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest
Another good question.

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

From 19 September 2010 Ratchaprasong protest

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