in solidarity with the people’s struggle for democracy in Thailand
‘Action for People’s Democracy in Thailand(ACT4DEM)’
Just 15 years after the abolition of Absolute Monarchy in 1932, the movement for democracy in Thailand was thoroughly crippled by the 1947 military coup. Since then Thai democracy has been little more than an absurd, often tragic dance with the generals – one step forward one step back.
Since 1932 Thailand’s monarcho-military regimes have used all possible means to suppress and derail the struggle for democracy, maintaining, for personal advantage, a constant state of socio-economic instability. The few civilian governments that did manage to come into existence were all kicked-out within a few months, by the US-supported military – that needed Thailand for their war against the Vietnamese people. During the Cold War decades, billions of US dollars were used by the Royal Thai Army to pump up a royalist hysteria to legitimise their use of power. In one of Thailand’s rare moments of civilian government, the US military was ordered to leave Thailand, which, after their defeat in Vietnam, they did quite rapidly in 1975. The violent military crackdown and coup of 1976 ensured that the military regained control of Thailand’s resources, and led finally to the democracy deficit that caused the extreme violence in Bangkok in April this year. After each of Thailand’s military coups the military budget was always significantly increased. Since the 2006 military coup the current government has doubled the military budget!
Despite all of this, the movement for democracy that was begun by a few educated people in 1932 grew into the student uprisings of the 1970s, thence, with massive participation of the rural and urban working classes, to the successful over-throw of the junta in 1992. Thailand has experience massive uprisings and violent military crackdowns in 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009 and 2010, but from the very beginning we see an endless, non-stop record of politicians, academics, writers, journalists, students, farmers and workers being detained, disappeared, murdered and fleeing from this ‘Land of Smiles’ – for speaking-out for justice and democracy. Under the current King, Rama IX, now in 2010, Thailand experienced its worst ever political violence, with about 90 dead and over 2000 wounded.
Enough is enough. The international community’s habit of allowing Thailand’s royalist-military elite to cover-up their atrocities and pretend that all is normal, back under control and civilized, cannot be allowed to continue.
The current royalist government is, still now, imposing a ‘State of Emergency’ on Bangkok and 16 provinces, mostly in the north and north-east. Soldiers have been sent into the villages of many Red-Shirt areas, and thousands of youth and local government officials are being mobilised under a fully government-sponsored ‘Protect the monarchy’ campaign.
There have been many assassination attempts with two provincial Red-Shirt leaders shot dead. Three decomposed Re-Shirt bodies were recently washed-up on the Pattaya beach. The Abhisit Government has issued arrest warrants for over 400 people and some 40 ‘first-line’ leaders are already in detention. Also independent citizen-activists and academics have been arrested and detained without charge for speaking-out, or conducting peaceful action to protest against government policy. About 100,000 websites have been blocked, community radios have been searched and shut down etc.
Since 1932 the people of Thailand have had to face more than 20 attempted or successful military coups, 18 constitutions and 27 Prime Ministers – most of them military generals. In these 78 years only one elected Prime Minister has managed to complete a full 4-year term of office.
Why is it taking Thailand so long to emerge as a full-fledged democracy, when the governance of most other countries, many far poorer than Thailand, are fully committed to democratic procedure and far more advanced along that road?
All of Thailand’s monarcho-military dictatorships have allocated huge sums of public money to promote, build and strengthen the institutions of the monarchy under the pretext of ‘national security’, shutting-down all voices of opposition with the draconian law of Les Majeste, stifling the education of all – rich and poor.
The Cold War ended long ago, and the outside world cannot just sit by and openly allow the political corruption and crimes in Thailand to go on perpetuating themselves.
Why we have to campaign for Thailand?
For the sake of the Thai people, and Southeast Asia as a whole, the time is NOW to end Thailand’s silly but often murderous political games. The international community must stop playing along with political corruption in Thailand, stop using Thailand as a political bubble zone and as a capitalist hub for pushing out-dated neo-liberal politics that are designed to crush participatory democracy. All of this is watched over by the United Nations regional head-quarters in Bangkok.
It ridicules supporters of the so-called ‘free world’ to remain fully operational, business-as-usual, as soon as the streets are cleared of bodies, without taking a firm stand against government that uses instruments like ‘live bullet zones’ against the majority of their population.
As in the past, despite hundreds of eye-witnesses, photos, video-clips and endless testimonies, not one military officer or government official, not to mention the main culprits at the top, has stepped forward to take responsibility for the murder of nearly 90 civilians this April. Many of the injured are ready to give testimony, but the illegitimacy of the current government is forcing it to maintain emergency law, to prevent all freedom of expression and right of assembly, and provide itself with the right to send soldiers into any household.
We must build an International Campaign for Democracy in Thailand with clear demands based on universal principles of human rights. Our Campaign demands will focus on the application in Thailand of the universal principles of human rights, justice and democracy.
It is time to end the oppressive, hypocritical, undemocratic political games in Thailand.
As Martin Luther King said: “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
ACT4DEM was born in response to the bloody massacre in Bangkok, 13-19 May, 2010. On May 16, we launched a petition-on-line called ‘Stop the Bloodshed in Thailand’. It was blocked after 2 days by the junta’s Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES). The petition was, none-the-less, delivered to Ban Ki Moon at UN Headquarters, Bangkok, on October 26 with 9416 signatures.
Friends around the world have been working to build solidarity for the people’s struggle for democacy in Thailand. There have been small-scale solidarity actions in front of Thai Embassies in e.g. South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, UK, Finland, Argentina.
Articles (in English and Thai) dealing with the causes of the Thai Crisis, looking under the superficial histories and propaganda as used to maintain the tourist industry, foreign direct investment and the massive military build-up, can be found at www.timeupthailand.net e.g. the Voter’s Uprising that is changing perceptions in Thailand; Why I don’t Love the King; Erasing the Democracy Deficit; Clearing
the smog of corruption; Overcoming Fear of Monarchy in Thailand.
- Exposing the root-causes of Thailand’s domestic crisis. Up-dating www.timeupthailand
- Campaigning for the release of all political and lèse majesté prisoners.
- Mobilising support for citizen-activists and human right’s defenders in Thailand and in exile that are being victimised / criminalised / tortured by Thailand’s monarcho-military juntas.
- Publicising testimonies, issues and events from the grass-root perspective – to counter-balance royalist / governmental propaganda, cover-ups and suppression. Drawing the attention of the public to all attempts to bring the perpetrators of state violence against civilians to court (including the case against Abhisit Vejjajiva, Prime Minister, in the International Criminal Court).
- Ensuring that the international community, the ASEAN and the United Nations has no excuses to pretend that it does not have information about monarcho-militarism and state repression in Thailand.
- Raising political awareness in the tourist industry, and organising tourist campaigns, to ensure that no company or tourist can claim that they are not aware of political oppression in Thailand, or the human consequences of that political oppression.
- Replacing the original on-line petition ‘Stop the Bloodshed in Thailand’ with a new petition focusing on the campaign demands.
The Campaign’s demands are:
- Withdrawal to barracks of all Royal Thai Armed Forces engaged in civilian policing activity.
- Termination and outlawing of all paramilitary ‘Protect the Monarchy’ activity and propaganda (including and especially government-sponsored paramilitary activity and propaganda).
- Justice and compensation to the injured, and to the families of those who died, as a result of governmental orders to crush civilian demonstrations.
- Release of all political and lèse majesté prisoners.
- Abolition of the law of lèse majesté.
- Abolition of the Privy Council.
- Termination all powers and possibilities for the Monarchy to interfere in political decision-making.
- Immediate initiation of procedures for a General Election with a fixed date.
2010 crackdown chronology:
- April 10. Crackdown with 26 people killed, one military chief killed and several hundreds wounded.
- May 14-19. Crackdown with another 62 people killed – all civilians, hundreds were wounded, mostly protesters, civilians and some paramedics and journalists. From the records of the Ministry of Public Health from March 12 – May 19, there were 1898 people injured and 85 people were killed. Between just 14-19 May,Government reports say there were 480 people injured and 53 people were killed (52 in Bangkok and one in Khonkaen province).
- May 16. ‘Stop the Bloodshed in Thailand’ on-line petition online created – blocked by the CRES after 48 hours after gathering more than 6,000 signatures.
- CRES = Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation. (Thai Government).
- May 19. On the day the protest camp was cleared by the military, many building were set ablaze including department stores, shops, cinemas and also government offices in few provinces. 40 UDD leaders surrendered and were arrested and detained. CRES published 417 names of people to be arrested for leading or participating in the Red Shirt demonstrations.
- May 19-27. Solidarity actions for Thailand in Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, UK, Hong Kong and Finland.
- 24 May. Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a labour activist and Dr. Suthachai Yimprasert, a University Lecturer, arrested and held in detention to mid June.
- 28 June. Sombat Boonngamwong, a human right activist, arrested for political action and held in a military camp. He is still in detention.
- End of May. Campaign for International Solidarity with the People’s Struggle for Democracy in Thailand founded in FaceBook with 649 members.
- April. Ministry of Interior announces programme to mobilise ‘volunteers to protect the Monarchy’ aiming at initial mobilization of at least 1,000 volunteers, including youth, from every district in Thailand. Thailand has about 800 districts. This means mobilization of at least 800,000 people as community / Government spies.
- 12 June. ‘Why I don’t love the King’, an essay by Junya Yimprasert, posted on the internet in English. The Thai version was posted on 24 June.
- 1 July. Thai PM Abhisit personally launches Government-sponsored ‘Cyber Scouts’ to monitor criticism of the monarchy and protect the ‘unity of the nation’. The lead role is given to the Ministry of Internet, Computer and Technology with allocation of 1.5 billion Baht of public money. The Ministry announces that 200 people are on the ‘Lese majeste’ watch list.
- Red shirts protesters and supporters start to gather every Sunday in Bangkok dressed in red. Many ceremonies for the dead are conducted at Ratprasong, Bangkok, where they were shot, and also in the home towns of the dead.
- 18 July. 2 months after the crackdown, near to one thousand people gather at Ratchaprasong in self-organised form as spirits of the dead – asking the police ‘Who killed us?’. Red clothes were tied to the street signpost and red lanterns were sent into the sky at night.
- Thousands begin to gather once again for Phua Thai Party mobilisation.
- Thai Government declares spending 10 billion Baht on CRES and for the per diem (bonus) for the 60,000 soldiers and police that were mobilised during the April – May crackdown. This cost if far greater than the cost of conducting a general election, which normally costs about 2 billion Baht.
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