Violence and double standards II

3 03 2021

As there was a couple of weeks ago, there’s again some banter about protesters and violence in the mainstream media.

With 22 protesters arrested and some 30 officially reported as injured, two-thirds of them police, Khaosod says some activists are again questioning “tactics” and especially the idea of a “leaderless” protest.

Meanwhile, the Thai Enquirer has a completely different story, while sounding like a throwback to the Cold War, writing of “pro-Marxist” protesters and blaming “Free Youth leaders” for violence. It says that Free Youth’s advice to protesters speaks of its “violence” for telling protesters in advance to “wear face mask and running shoes but no jewelry, necklace or contact lens and to cover their face with disguises…, [recommending] protestors … bring security helmet, gas mask, thick gloves, first aid kit and other protest equipment.”

As far as we can tell, that seems pretty standard advice to protesters since last year.

In the two reports there’s only one photo of a protester being aggressive towards police – throwing a plastic water bottle. There are quite a few photos of police firing weapons, which tends to suggest that Thai Enquirer’s claim that “photos and videos of confrontations will only support the government and police claims that the pro-democracy protestors are violent when the majority of them are not” is not quite correct. But this kind of advocacy is naive and dangerously close to supporting a regime with decades of anti-civilian violence in it DNA.

A little bit of fishing around produces a report of a journalist arrested and charged, and evidence of the authorities’ use of rubber bullets. PPT watched the protest on livestreaming and there was very little violence in evidence. That may be because the police again restricted the activities of journalists or it may be that those doing the livestreaming were in the wrong place when there was violence elsewhere. That said, there was plenty of ducking and diving when the police fired off their weapons.

It is also noticeable that social media has shown pictures of people in plainclothes throwing items at protesters and video of plainclothes police and military dressed like protesters:

As Andrew MacGregor Marshall points out at Secret Siam, these were mostly “soldiers sent by the palace supposedly to protect royal buildings.”

It is noticeable that in the mainstream media’s reporting, there’s almost no information on what the protesters wanted and why they marched. Prachtai fills the gap:

The protest, which was called by the activist group Free Youth movement, now known as REDEM (Restart Democracy), started at the Victory Monument before marching to the 1st Infantry Regiment to demand that prime minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha move out of army housing, as he retired from the army in 2014. The group also said that electricity and water bills for the army housing are paid for with taxpayer money.

The 1st Infantry Regiment, King’s Close Bodyguard, was also one of the army units recently transferred to King Vajiralongkorn’s personal control. The group is therefore demanding that the control of the army units be transferred out of the King’s control.

REDEM also calls for the monarchy’s power to be limited, for the military to stay out of politics, and for universal state welfare.

These demands are aligned with those made several months ago. The emphasis on the king’s arguably unlawful control of military units is not discussed in the mainstream media.


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