By Saksith Saiyasombut, in Bangkok
A public seminar has criticized the government that little to nothing has happened in the official investigations of the deaths during the red shirt protests of April and May 2010. The event, organized by the People’s Information Center: April – May 2010 (PIC) was held at Thammasat University on Saturday and consisted of lectures, panel discussions and accounts by victims and their relatives. During the nine and a half weeks between March until April of red shirt protests, 92 were killed and over 2,000 people were injured. Several federal commissions and groups have launched investigations, but so far have come up with inconclusive or contradictory results, if any at all.
In his opening speech, PIC’s Chathawat Tulathon complains that the government’s intention tends more to “reconciliation than on actual justice”. He also criticizes the government’s repeated obsession to blame everything on the so-called ‘black shirts’, an alleged armed vigilante groups who have targeted soldiers, protesters and civilians, as recently shown at the Democrat Party’s rally at Rajaprasong a few days prior to the event. Chathawat points out that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has set up three fact-finding committees, but have failed to publish any findings. On the issue of people injured during the protests, Chatawat claims that there could be more affected than the over 2,000 recorded injured, and that long-term damage, both physical and psychological, is a problem. So is the problem of people gone missing: “We have at least five missing people, confirmed by their relatives,” he said. “We conclude that no progress has been made at all.”
One substantial part of the problem, according to Thammasat’s Sawatree Suksri, is the “cycle of delays” between the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the National Police Department in the inquiries of the deaths. Sawatree accuses the DSI of “going around in circles for months, just to hand back the cases to the National Police on November 15, 2010.” “It’s been 402 days [since May 19, 2010 and June 25, 2011] ever since and nothing has happened,” she laments, “justice delayed, justice denied!”
Bangkok was not the only place to see violence on May 19, 2010, there have been reports of riots in several other cities in the country as well, most notably Ubon Ratchathani, where the city hall was supposedly burned down by arsonists. Sanoh Charoenporn of Ubon Ratchathani University shows, with the help of video clips, that a mob was protesting at the fence of the city hall compound when a row of police officers were replaced by soldiers and, given what happened that day in the capital, were angered by their presence. The situation deteriorated when several people of the mob climbed over the fence and got into the compound, only to be chased away by gunshots, which were supposedly coming from “10 men with long rifles”, who were seen walking down from the upper floors of the city hall Building. Five people were injured in the process and only about 20 rioters were inside the compound, when the fire broke out notably beginning on the upper floors. Sanoh argues that after the incident local police have indiscriminately targeted and arrested members of a local red shirt group and have threatened them to a false confession.
The morning session concluded in an official statement by the PIC, pointing out that with an election coming closer, the “shrill shouts for reconciliation are getting louder, (…) but until today ‘reconciliation’ means forgetting or keeping still about injustice, about the pain suffered, about the damage those in power have done to the people, (…) reconciliation in Thailand has never been based on justice and the truth not even once!”
The whole seminar, including the parts not covered in this post, can be watched on YouTube here: Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11. A report about the witness accounts of victims and their relatives can be found at Prachatai.