International culpability

16 04 2010

The Times (15 April 2010) has a story that has caused PPT to consider more broadly the range of culpability. So too does a story be Shawn Crispin at the Asia Times Online (17 April 2010). Oddly, while the latter raises the issue of international culpability, both articles arguably contribute to an amazing silence that has emanated from governments around the world on the violence in Thailand.

The Times article is all about mysterious killers last Saturday, beginning with an account of “just one loud boom in a cacophony of firing” that “in an instant the balance of power between the two sides was reversed.” This latter statement is the kind of comment that has people believing that when a modern army faces protesters that there is anything like a parity of forces.

The question of whether there is a rift in the army seems reasonable and is also covered in the Asia Times story, with more twists and turns in conspiracies than even the article’s author can keep up with in any logical way.

It is also somewhat odd for The Times to consider the army’s operation to be “a simple crowd clearance operation…”. Clearing tens of thousands of determined demonstrators from city streets is hardly ever simple, and the red shirts had earlier demonstrated considerable learning after their failures in April 2009.

These reports, in speculating – “Thai newspapers this week carried photographs of black-clad riflemen in balaclavas, who moved stealthily among the Red Shirt protesters, most of whom were armed with nothing more powerful than sticks and flagpoles” and about a “mysterious and deadly third force was at work” – takes responsibility for the deaths and injuries from the government.

It allows Democrat Party mouthpieces to claim, as Kraisak Choonhavan has, that “People skilled in the M-79 must be military people…. He can then point to military people associated with the red shirts. Again, this shift blame to those who suffered by far the greatest casualties. In any case, Kraisak’s claim is wrong. M79 grenade launchers are easy to use.

These kinds of stories then allow others to push a pro-government line even further. For example, Sue Cato states that “There is a growing belief that the forces behind the red shirts are seeking fundamental change to the way the country is governed.” This is right out of the government’s playbook and says that the red shirts are “terrorists.”

She adds to this by claiming that “as the days go by it is more and more apparent that there is a great deal of sophistication and enormous resources behind the red shirts…”. Anyone who went to red shirt rallies in March can see that this is false. However, it fits the government’s claims that all the trouble has its root cause in Terrorist Thaksin as the foreign minister labels Thaksin Shinawatra. This claim means that the red shirt movement is portrayed as false and made up of duped and paid demonstrators, the standard yellow-shirt accusation. She adds to this by calling red shirt actions “choreographed stunts” and “intimidatory.” So all of the intimidation by the state is wiped from the slate.

Shawn Crispin is not as relentlessly pro-government as Cato, but he concocts so many plots and conspiracies into his article that the events of Saturday become so murky and so Machiavellian that Thailand seems incomprehensible. As he himself admits, “International reaction to the killings has been guarded due to the still unclear circumstances surrounding the violence.” Worse, because of this obfuscation, as one diplomat cited says, there are “concerns that the military could be emboldened to act more forcefully by the tepid domestic and international response to last Saturday’s bloodbath.”

For PPT it is clear that the international community has been less than tepid. The international response to the now 25 deaths and more than 850 injured persons taken to hospital is frozen cold. The governments of countries in the region and more broadly should be ashamed. Their lack of action has emboldened Abhisit Vejjajiva, his palace backers, factions in the military and, worst of all, Thailand’s dangerous, yellow-shirted rightists.

If there are more deaths, will they do anything? Or will governments continue to sit on their hands while people die while they are simply calling for an election. If they do nothing, the body count will increase and the “Burma solution” – favored by many on the right – will just be a step away.


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17 04 2010
1932 revolution redux « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Take Action International culpability […]

18 04 2010
The military is ready and will act « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] In the Bangkok Post, Sansern predicts a crackdown, warning “that resolute measures will be used if the demonstrators resist against the authorities.” He added: “We will not let the protesters seize weapons from officials again. If they do we will react in accordance with the law…”. A higher body count can be expected. We suggest readers also look back at our reports yesterday relating to military preparations and international culpability. […]

18 05 2010
Updated: Some items from readers « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] reader has sent a link to this post by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. It makes a point PPT made more than a month ago: “The international community’s silence in the face of a human rights catastrophe.” […]