A regime built upon corpses

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The present Thai military dictatorship, which came to power 3 years ago, is not only built upon the corpse of Thai freedom and democracy, it is also built upon the real human corpses of those gunned down on the streets of Bangkok.

In response to a Red Shirt pro-democracy protest, which started on 14th March 2010, the army leadership, which included present dictator Generalissimo Prayut, and the military appointed Abhisit government, started to massacred unarmed demonstrators in cold blood. The Red Shirt protesters were demanding genuine democratic elections after the military, the judges and other elites, had removed a democratically elected government for the second time since 2006.

The military deployed the Queen’s Guard troops from the Second Infantry Division, under the command of General Prayut Chano-cha, to carry out a night time suppression operation. Company-sized army groups took up positions directly facing the Red Shirt crowd at the Democracy Monument and Khok Wua Intersection, where a standoff ensued for more than an hour. Troops fired live ammunition above the crowd, including heavy .50 calibre machine guns, together with sporadic live fire directly into the crowd.

The specific objectives of the 10th April operation, near the Democracy Monument, were to terrorise the demonstrators, assassinate the Red Shirt leaders, and suppress the Red Shirt movement. Contrary to common perception, the strategy was not to disperse the demonstrators. Rather, the operational strategy was to concentrate the demonstrators in a confined area, provoke the crowd to violence in order to create a perceived need for self-defence, and open fire.

The military opened fire on unarmed demonstrators who posed no threat to the soldiers. At most the demonstrators were throwing plastic bottles at the troops. Twenty-one civilians died and 600 were injured in this initial crack-down. Five soldiers were also killed when an M67 military grenade was rolled into the command post from behind army lines, probably by a rival military group. Yet this first army operation did not achieve its aim. The Redshirts managed to seize a couple of APCs and the Red Shirt protests continued for another month into May.

After the military operation on Rachadamnoen Avenue on April 10th failed to end the Red Shirt demonstrations, the army turned its attention to suppressing the demonstrations that had now concentrated at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. The army’s plan called for establishing a “free fire” perimeter around the area. During the period between May 13th and May 19th, the army deployed troops from the Second Cavalry Division and the First Infantry Division to seal off the Bon Kai area south of Ratchaprasong, and the Din Dang and Rajaprarop areas north of Ratchaprasong. Again, snipers were deployed from buildings, using live ammunition. Although the official orders were to shoot threatening targets only, the actual orders for the commanding officers, which were unwritten, were to: (1) shoot all moving targets, regardless of threat level; (2) prevent any photographic or video evidence by shooting neutral foreign press photographers; and (3) prevent the removal of any bodies. These orders signified that troops were permitted to kill any person they wished, which allowed for the shootings of civilians and medical personnel at the Wat Patumwanaram temple on the evening of the 19th May. Claims that the Red Shirts were also armed with automatic weapons are not supported by any evidence of captured weapons or deaths or bullet injuries of any soldiers at Ratchaprasong.

There is overwhelming photographic and documentary evidence that the military and the government ordered the killing of unarmed Red Shirts by bringing in tanks, heavily armed soldiers and snipers to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Nearly 90 unarmed civilians, including paramedics and foreign journalists were shot by snipers in the “free-fire zones” set up by the Military.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and all government representatives at the time repeatedly denied that pro-democracy demonstrators had been deliberately shot down by soldiers. Deputy Prime Minister Sutep Tuaksuban told the media in March 2011 that the government “had not killed anyone” and that the Red Shirts had “run into the bullets themselves”.  Army Commander General Prayut denied that the Army shot anyone. An official report revealed that the military had used 117,923 bullets against Red Shirts in April and May, 2120 of which were sniper bullets. No military or government official has ever been jailed and General Prayut is now Thailand’s self-appointed Prime Minister.

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