Who will end the long tradition of impunity?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Six years ago, 4 Thai state criminals: General Prayut Chan-ocha, General Anupong Paojinda, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Sutep Tuaksuban, organised a bloodbath on the streets of Bangkok. They ordered snipers to gun down unarmed pro-democracy red shirt protesters. Streets were declared “free fire zones”. Nearly a hundred people were shot down in cold blood. Troops stationed on the sky train railway line picked off civilians sheltering in a nearby temple. Among the dead was a volunteer nurse.

These state criminals have never shown the slightest remorse for their actions. Statements like “unfortunately some people died” or “protesters simply ran into the bullets” revealed their mentality.

Four years later Prayut Chan-ocha and Sutep Tuaksuban acted together to destroy the democratically elected Yingluk government. Sutep and his thugs, including Prayut’s favourite fascist Buddhist monk “Isara”, violently wrecked the elections and Prayut staged a military coup not long after and set himself up as Prime Minister. These two thugs are still working together to support the military’s appalling draft constitution.

Soon after the 2010 bloodbath, the red shirt lawyer Robert Amsterdam, initially hired by Taksin Shinawat, compiled a detailed document of the military’s crimes. The aim was to send it to the International Criminal Court and bring these criminals to justice. Nothing came of this noble but rather naïve initiative.

One reason why these four murderers were never brought to justice at the International Criminal Court is that the Pua Thai government led by Yingluk Shinawat refused to vote to bring Thailand into the jurisdiction of the court. Some said they had to tread carefully because the military were breathing down their necks. Maybe so, but appeasing the military got them nowhere. They staged a coup anyway. Previously, the Yingluk government had won a landslide election victory in 2011 and had plenty of legitimacy and mass support to take on the army with the help of the red shirt movement. They chose not to act.

Undoubtedly, one reason why the Pua Thai government was so reluctant to bring prosecutions against the 4 state murderers, either in an international court or in a Thai court, was that Taksin himself is a state criminal. When he was Prime Minister, many truckloads of Muslim Malays were deliberately murdered by the military and the police in Patani. A Muslim lawyer working for the cause of justice in the south was also disappeared by the police.

There is a long and disgraceful tradition of the Thai elites getting away with murder. It stretches back to 1973 and beyond. No single state official has ever been brought to justice for massacring civilians in 1973, 1976, 1992 or during the present crisis.

Yet people who dare to verbally criticise the status quo are often put in prison for years under the terrible lèse majesté law.

So who will end this culture of impunity? Certainly not any future elected government made up of Taksin’s allies or Abhisit’s so-called “Democrat Party”! They have all shown their true colours.

Ironically, the lèse majesté law prevents open debate about the role of the king. This means many mistakenly believe that the weak and ineffectual king, who is a creature of the military, ordered the killings. He did not. But neither did he condemn them. He never has defended freedom, democracy or justice. His death will not change a thing. The elites are united in their contempt for ordinary citizens, deeming us to be worthless while living off our backs.

No outside power, whether it be the International Criminal Court, the USA or the EU, will ever help bring Thai state criminals to justice.

No “good” Thai constitution can deal with this problem either.

The only force capable of ending this impunity is a mass pro-democracy movement which can rip apart the monopoly of power held by the elites and transform the Thai state, crushing the power of the military. To achieve this is not easy, but it has happen before in many countries and it depends on being serious about political organisation and the use of the latent power of the working class.

As Joe Hill said…don’t mourn; organise!