Thailand: Thousands demand release of political prisoners (+ photo essay)
By Peter Boyle
September 18, 2010 -- Up to 3000 members and supporters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) – popularly known as the Red Shirts – rallied peacefully outside Klongprem Remand Prison in Bangkok on September 17 to demand the release of the estmated 470 political prisoners held since the military violently suppressed the mass Red Shirt protest camp in Bangkok on May 19.
The protesters laid wreaths of red roses at the gates to the prison. Similar protests were held outside several other prisons around the country.
Police estimated the size of the rally outside Klongprem prison to be 1000 but participants said it was more than twice that size. There were no arrests.
A participant in the Bangkok protest told Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly: “We felt so happy to see the Red Shirt brotherhood and sisterhood come together again. Everyone was giving warm hugs and smiling at each other. For the first time in four months we felt that we were not alone.”
This celebratory atmosphere outside Klongprem prison on September 17 is eloquently captured in the pictures below by Ooi Thai Delphi CBN Press, published by Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.
This action builds up to a Red Shirt protest motorcade from Bangkok to Chiangmai, in the north, on September 19 to to mark four months since the May 19 massacre and four years since the 2006 military coup which ousted the last elected government headed by Thaksin Shinawatra.
Red Shirt supporters hope about 10,000 people will gather in Bangkok for the start of the motorcade, and the big turnout for the September 17 protest, held even though Bangkok is still subject to emergency rule, suggests that this could be easily achievable.
On the same day, the Red Sunday group led by Sombat Boonngamanong plans to release 10,000 red balloons at the Ratchaprasong intersection that was the site of the April-May Red Shirt protest camp.
Some 5000 troops are reported to have been placed on standby to deal with this peaceful mobilisation. The military-installed Abhisit regime announced that it had set up a special “war room” to monitor the resurgent Red Shirt protests.
[Peter Boyle is national convenor of the Socialist Alliance of Australia, which supports the struggle for democracy in Thailand.]