The pattern of Thai State Crimes

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The bloody massacre in Bangkok of pro-democracy civilians by the military and the Democrat Party in April and May 2010 was not the first time that unarmed political protesters had been brutally killed by the Thai State. It is now 40 years since the cold-blooded massacre at Thammasart University on the 6th October 1976.


Before 2010, State Crimes were committed under the Thai Rak Thai Government in the South in 2004, by the military junta in 1992 in Bangkok, by the police and state-sponsored right-wing forces in October 1976 outside Thammasart University and by the army on the streets of Bangkok in October 1973. In 1973 and 1992, the people managed to overcome the army and win. But 1976, 2004 and 2010 were defeats. To date, no one has been punished or held responsible for any of these State Crimes.


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There is a general pattern to the brutal methods which the Thai State has used over the last 40 years. Firstly, armed combat troops or paramilitary police are used to gun down unarmed protesters in the streets. Tanks are often deployed to intimidate people. Government officials then deny any shootings. There are no attempts to arrest people in order to keep the peace. Instead those that are captured are treated like enemy soldiers.  Captives are stripped to the waist and made to crawl along the ground under a hail of kicks and beatings. They are then tied up. After the incidents government spokespersons tell deliberate lies. One typical lie is to say that the security forces were “forced to act as the situation was getting out of hand”. Another lie is to claim that the “trouble-makers” were foreigners and couldn’t speak Thai or that they wanted to over-throw the monarchy. Yet another lie is to claim that the protesters were well-armed and posed a threat to security forces. These lies are all trotted out despite video, photographic and eye-witness evidence which directly contradicts the accounts given by the Thai State.

In the light of general amnesties given to all sides after the 6th October blood bath and also after the 1992 military crack-down, it is worth remembering that the most important function of these amnesties is to white-wash the actions of state officials in the name of “reconciliation”. This is why we must never accept any general amnesty for what happened between 2006 and 2010. The Red Shirts were carrying out legitimate pro-democracy demonstrations and need no amnesty. Those charged with lèse majesté have been imprisoned under an anti-democratic law. All these political prisoners should be immediately released. They do not need to be “pardoned” for they have done no wrong.

But what is of vital importance is to charge the coup makers of 2006 and 2014, and all those who were responsible for the killing of Red Shirts in 2010, and bring them to justice. A genuine enquiry should be conducted into the 2004 massacre in the South and other State Crimes before that. All those deemed to be guilty should be prosecuted.

A “Human Rights Marker” needs to be laid down in Thailand. Without such actions, Thailand can never have genuine standards of human rights or democracy. Making all laws and constitutions passed by military juntas null and void, would be an important first step. Drastically cutting the military budget, which is used to buy weapons which kill Thai citizens and to line the pockets of the generals via kick-backs, is also vital. The lèse majesté law needs to be scrapped and citizens need to have the right to openly discuss whether or not to maintain the monarchy.

But to achieve these things we need a mass movement allied to a political party of the left and the working class. Those who reject these necessary pre-conditions conditions for genuine change, and instead turn to symbolic gestures of a tiny handful of activists or look to international ruling classes or the United Nations, will change nothing of significance.

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