Photo essay: Bangkok, 10-10-10 -- Red Shirts mass around Democracy Monument
Story by Peter Boyle, photos by Klaus.
On Sunday, October 10, 2010, (10-10-10, an auspicious date in Thailand and many other Asian countries) at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok there was another semi-spontaneous Red Shirt mass mobilisation built largely by word of mouth. An eyewitness estimated that up to 8000 people participated in this action to mark the victims of the April 10 military shooting of unarmed Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok.
The Democracy Monument has been the site of a number of mass democracy protests, notably one of the giant 1973 protests which brought down the military dictatorship of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.
According to “Klaus”, the person who took these pictures, news of the protest was communicated through social networks over the internet and through word of mouth “on the street”.
“Even on Saturday it was quite confusing and there were many contradictory rumours about what was going on the following day. Many Red Shirts had attended the concert organised by the United Front for Democracy (UDD – popularly known as the Red Shirts) in Imperial Lardphrao on Saturday evening and there I guess some coordinated their actions for the next day.”
“Gunn”, a person who works with the Red Sunday group led by Sombat Boonngamanong, confirmed that the Red Sunday group was one of several which cooperated in Sunday’s event but, as at the 12,000-strong September 19 at Ratchaprasong Intersection, the big turnout was spontaneous.
“It is very difficult to estimate the real number of protesters”, Klaus explained. "The masses were moving and they occupied a large area around Democracy Monument. There were not as many as at Ratchaprasong on September 19 and my cautious estimate would be around 8000, maybe at its peak even 10,000.
“There was not just one leader. I saw more than a handful of different groups and leaders apart from Khun Sombat and Khun Khattiyaa (the late Maj Gen Khattiya’s daughter). The UDD didn’t seem to be involved at all. It proved the trend that the movement is gaining strong dynamics independently from the influence of the big players and people are playing more and more by the motto ‘every Red Shirt is his own leader’.
“The most obvious message was the remembrance of the victims of the violence on April 10 and the following weeks, and the frustration over the reluctance of the elitist government to take any form of responsibility for the massacres.
“Some groups concentrated on the demand for the release of the Red Shirts who are still in prison and who they regard as political prisoners.
“The mood was jubilant most of the time, with many groups dancing and cheering, but at the same time there were some tense moments. During mid-afternoon the shouting against the highest authority [insulting the monarchy is a jail offence in Thailand] was becoming more frequent and louder and people started to write graffiti onto the street. Some graffiti was again critical to this institution.
“Later the police presence increased and several rings of riot police occupied the area with the graffiti and they started to build two rings around the Democracy Monument. Some Red Shirts started to tie red ribbons around groups of riot police and posted red stickers onto their shields.
“Shortly before 5 pm tensions were rising as the police still expected the crowd to disperse by then and Khun Sombat was seen to negotiate with the police forces. They finally agreed on an extension until 6.30 to 7 pm. Around 6 pm the Red Shirts started to light candles around and on the monument and some red lanterns were left rising.
“By 6.30 the people started to go home peacefully.”
[Peter Boyle is national convenor of the Socialist Alliance, which supports the Thai people's struggle for democracy.]