Action for People’s Democracy in Thailand (ACT4DEM)
an INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN in solidarity with the
People’s Struggle for Democracy in Thailand
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 elite has 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 kicked-out within a few months by a bloated Royal Thai Army. During the Cold War the US pumped billions of dollars into the Royal Thai Army, using Thailand as a base for war against the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao.
Monarchism in Thailand was rebuilt to legitimize suppression and oppression of people. In one of the short, rare moments of civilian rule, the US military was ordered to leave Thailand. Since their defeat in South-East Asia had become humiliating, they did not waste time and were packed and gone almost gone 1975. At present they are attempting to make a come-back.
The violent Royal Thai Army crackdown and coup that followed the expulsion of US in 1976 was designed to enable the now insecure Thai military to retake total control of Thailand’s resources. Thailand experienced massive uprisings and violent military crackdowns in 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009 and 2010. After every military coup the military budget was increased. Since the 2006 military coup it has been doubled! The 2006 Coup and the democracy deficit that caused the extreme violence in April-May 2010 is easily traced to 1976.
Never-the-less, the movement for democracy that attempted to end absolute monarchy, that was begun by a handful of educated people in 1932, grew into the student uprisings of the 1970s, and thence, with massive participation of the rural and urban working classes, to the over-throw of the military junta in 1992. This never-ending struggle between the people and the monarcho-militarists is characterised by a never-ending, pitiful record of politicians, academics, writers, journalists, students, farmers and workers being thrown into jail, disappeared and murdered for attempting to speak-out for democracy against injustice. Many are they who are forced to flee the ‘Land of Smiles’.
In 2010 Thailand experienced worst-ever political violence – with 90 dead and over 2000 wounded. A State of Emergency was imposed on Bangkok and 16 provinces, mostly in the north and north-east. Soldiers were sent into the villages and thousands of youth and government officials were mobilized under a fully government-sponsored para-military, ‘Protect the Monarchy’ assault on independent thinking. The Abhisit Government issued arrest warrants for hundreds of people, detained dozens of ‘first-line’ opposition leaders, arrested and detained independent citizen-activists and academics without warrant for just speaking-out. There were many attempted and successful political assassinations, bodies washed-up on beaches, community radios were searched and shut-down and hundreds of thousands of website pages were blocked.
Enough is enough. The International Community’s convenient habit of turning a blind-eye to atrocities committed by the monarcho-military elite in Thailand cannot be allowed to continue.
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 near 80 years only one elected Prime Minister has managed to complete a full term of office. The question . . “Why is Thailand taking so long to emerge as a full-fledged democracy when many other far poorer countries are more advanced?” is not difficult to answer. Under the pretext of ‘national security’ all of Thailand’s long-string of monarcho-military dictatorships have made it their business to allocate huge sums of public money to promote, build and strengthen the institutions of the monarchy, to suppress all forms of opposition, to silence all criticism of the elite power-structure with draconian laws of lès majesté . . and thus to stifle and stunt general education.
The Cold War ended long ago. The world cannot just sit around and openly allow political crime and corruption in Thailand to be perpetuated. For the sake of all Thai and all people of Southeast Asia, Thailand’s silly but murderous political games must be ended. The International Community must end the international skip-along with political corruption in Thailand, and stop using Thailand as a political bubble-zone, as a regional hub, for pushing neo-liberal policies that are designed to suppress and crush people’s democracy.
All of this has been placidly watched by the United Nations regional head-quarters in Bangkok. The Thailand story of 2010 does nothing less than ridicule the so-called ‘Free World’ . . the so-called democrcaies. To not take a firm stand against government that uses instruments like ‘live bullet zones’ to clear civilian protest is nothing less than complicity.
As in the past, in 2010, with regard to the political murder of 90 civilians, there were hundreds of eye-witnesses ready to give testimony, loads of photos and video-clips, but not one military officer or government official, not to mention the culprits at the top, has been charged, or has stepped forward to take responsibility, or been requested to step forward by the Judiciary. Why? Because the royalist government that beventually came to power after the 2006 coup was corrupt and the illegitimate and thus forced to impose both Martial Law and then Emergency Law, to ensure prohibition of freedom of speech and assembly, and to provide itself with the right – to not listen but to terrify – the civilian population e.g. by giving soldiers the right to enter private homes at will.
With the current fearful suppression of Freedom of Speech in Thailand, we have no choice other than to build an International Campaign to help terminate oppression and ensure the application of human rights, justice and democracy in Thailand.
As Martin Luther King said . . “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
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ACT4DEM was born in response to the bloody massacre in Bangkok, 13-19 May, 2010.
On May 16 we launched a petition-on-line to ‘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 (2010) with 9416 signatures.
Friends around the world have been working to build solidarity for the People’s Struggle for Democracy in Thailand . . in South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, UK, Finland, Argentina. Articles (in Thai, English, German, Greek and other languages) dealing with the causes of the Thai Crisis, looking in under the superficial histories and propaganda used to maintain tourism, foreign direct investment and 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’ . . and other writings.
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- Exposing the root-causes of Thailand’s domestic crisis.
- Up-dating the website.
- Campaigning for the release of all political and lèse majesté prisoners. (Supporting all campaigning to abolish LM112)
- 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-militarists.
- Publicising testimonies, political issues and events from the grass-root perspective – to counter-balance royalist / governmental propaganda, cover-ups and suppression.
- Drawing attention of the public to attempts to bring to court the perpetrators of state violence against civilians (including the bringing of ex-PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and other top-brass to the International Criminal Court the political murders of 2010).
- Ensuring that the international community, the ASEAN and the United Nations have no means to pretend they do not have information about monarcho-military state oppression 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 of the human consequences of that oppression.
The ACT4DEM Campaign’s demands are:
Outlawing of all types of ‘Protect the Monarchy’ paramilitary activity, especially government-sponsored paramilitary activity and propaganda.
Justice and compensation to the victims of state oppression, including to the families of those who died in 2010 as a result of government orders to crush civilian protest.
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.
2010 crackdown chronology:
April 10 Crackdown with 26 people and one military chief killed and several hundreds wounded.
May 14-19 Crackdown with another 62 people killed – all civilians, including by-standers, paramedics and journalists. Hundreds were wounded. From the records of the Ministry of Public Health from March 12–May 19 there were 1,898 people injured and 85 killed. Between 14-19 May Government reports say 480 people were injured and 53 people were killed (52 in Bangkok and one in Khonkaen province).
May 16 ‘Stop the Bloodshed in Thailand’ petition-on-line blocked by the CRES. In 48 hours it gathered more than 6,000 signatures. (CRES = the Thai Governments so-called Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation).
May 19 On the day the protest camp was cleared by the military, many building were set ablaze including department stores, shops and cinemas, also some government offices in few provinces. 40 UDD protest leaders surrendered and were arrested and detained. CRES published the names of 417 leading people that were to be arrested for participation 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 leading human right activist, arrested and held in a military camp.
End of May. Campaign for International Solidarity with the People’s Struggle for Democracy in Thailand founded with the help of activists in the UK.
12 June ‘Why I don’t love the King’, an essay by Junya Yimprasert, posted on the internet in English. A Thai version was posted on 24 June.
1 July To protect the ‘Unity of the Nation’, PM Abhisit personally launched a Government-sponsored ‘Cyber Scouts’ programme to censor criticism of the monarchy / royalist elite. The lead role was given to the Ministry of Information with allocation of 1.5 billion Baht of public money. The Ministry announced that they had 200 people are on their ‘Lèse majesté watch list’.
Red Shirt protesters and supporters, dressed in red, start to reappear in Bangkok every Sunday. Many ceremonies for the dead are conducted where people were shot in Rachaprasong, down-town Bangkok, and also in the home-towns of the dead.
18 July 2 months after the crackdown, close to one thousand people gathered in Ratchaprasong as self-organised spirits of the dead . . asking the police . . ‘Who killed us?’. Red clothes were tied to street signposts and red lanterns were sent into the night sky.
Once again people began to assemble in their thousands . . in support of the Phua Thai Party.
The royalist Government declares that it spent 10 billion Baht on CRES, a sum that included the per diem – the “bonus” – paid to the 60,000 soldiers and police that were mobilized to implement the 2010 crackdown.
In 2010 the civilian population demanded no more and no less than a General Election to rid itself of an illegitimate Government. The bill for CRES was five time greater than a General Election.
The loss of 90 innocent lives and the unforgivable mountain of suffering that resulted from the monarcho-military coup of 2006 cannot be compensated, but all know that it is before the determination, courage and sacrifice of humble people that will end the reign of Thailand’s almighty criminals.
April. The Thai Ministry of the Interior announces a programme to mobilize ‘Volunteers to Protect the Monarchy’, specifying the mobilization of at least 1,000 volunteers from every district in Thailand . . including youth. With about 800 districts this meant an attempt to mobilize 800,000 people as monarch-military spies in their own communities.
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This post is also available in: Thai