Updated: Jatuporn’s meltdown

13 01 2021

One of the not very well hidden tasks of the regime, sometimes supported by the mainstream media, has been to nitpick at the protest movement and exacerbate divisions and differences.

That follows a tested junta tactic of trying to divide and conquer former opponents in Puea Thai and among red shirts. This involved buying off red shirt leaders like the detestable Suporn Atthawong, who has been rewarded with legal cases dropped and lucrative positions. Those turncoats have assisted the military junta to transform into the current post-junta regime.

A more activist Jatuporn

Over the past couple of months we have watched United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, leader Jatuporn Promphan say some odd things and, finally, have a meltdown. His story is told by a seemingly gleeful Thai PBS.

Jatuporn’s role as a red shirt protest leader resulted in numerous criminal charges and several arrests, and he eventually served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts. Jatuporn’s defamation was to call Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

He was also seen court orders for 100 million baht “in civil rulings stemming from riots and arson attacks by red-shirt protesters.” We won’t go back over the details of these false charges. In addition, he faces charges of “terrorism, illegal phone-tapping, and provoking public disorder, as well as other libel offences.”

Many activists looked differently at Jatuporn when, in July 2020, he “warned student activists not to cross a line, by infringing upon the [m]onarchy…”.  Some took this as a warning that the students should be wary of yet another murderous military attack on protesters. Others, however, wondered why Jatuporn appeared to be defending the monarchy. Many red shirts who joined with the student demonstrators calling for monarchy reform were stunned by Jatuporn’s statements.

In September 2020, his commentary was taken up in an op-ed by the notorious anti-democrat journalist Tulsathit Taptim who used Jatuporn’s “advice” to demonstrators to call for them to back down. Referring to campaigns against royalists, it was stated:

According to Jatuporn, it is all right for dictators to seek to destroy or suppress opposite or different opinions because it’s what they do. But it’s not democratic, he says, if minority or unpopular opinions are condemned, insulted or forced to undergo changes.

Oddly, in 2010 and during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it was Jatuporn who was accused by yellow shirts of supporting “majoritarianism” – in this case, supporting an elected government.

Two further outbursts by Jatuporn suggest that he has had a political meltdown. He has seen increasing opposition from former comrades, with accusations that he is a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.”

Staggeringly, Jatuporn has called for the UDD “to disband and pass the baton on to the young-generation protesters now battling for democracy. That push drew another barrage of criticism – this time that he was betraying fellow red shirts.” Some wondered aloud about Jatuporn’s motives and asked why, in 2014, the red shirts went off stage with a whimper. Was Jatuporn complicit in demobilizing red shirts? Some disgruntled observers suggested that Jatuporn’s paymaster had changed.

Then, he drew more criticism when he campaigned for the re-election of Chiang Mai’s provincial administrative organisation (PAO) chief, Boonlert Buranupakorn, himself considered a turncoat. Boonlert lost to a Puea Thai candidate who also had Thaksin Shinawatra’s support. Even other red shirt leaders spoke out against Jatuporn.

Just a few days ago, Jatuporn’s meltdown and slide to the other side was illustrated when he filed “a police complaint against some 200 netizens he accused of posting false information and defamatory abuse against him” during the [PAO] election campaign.”

Jatuporn said the “online attacks part of a concerted attempt to destroy his reputation,” something he seems to be doing for himself. Sounding like the regime’s nastiest of lying, cheating politicans, he vowed “many hundred more cases.” He seems to be taking a leaf out of Thammanat Prompao’s playbook.

We can understand that all those legal cases and the threat of more jail must weigh heavily, but it does seem that Jatuporn is doing the regime’s work.

Update: Khaosod has more on the UDD. It concludes with comments by red shirt activist Anurak Jeantawanich, saying “he would oppose any attempt to dissolve the UDD.” He correctly points out that “the large number of Redshirt protesters at anti-government rallies in 2020 prove that the movement is still a force to reckon with, and what the UDD needs is a new leadership with new strategies.” He adds: “Redshirts are against the dissolution of the UDD,” he said, citing an informal online survey that he conducted. “

As for Jatuporn, Anurak states: “I don’t want to use the word fired, but I’d like to ask him to leave.”





No accountability

20 05 2020

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) have called on “the Government of Thailand to re-activate its investigation into the [murderous military] crackdown [in 2010], and ensure transparent proceedings and due process for all involved.”

The joint statement demanded:

The Government must ensure that activists fighting for justice for victims of this massacre are protected from reprisals. The Government should take genuine and impartial steps towards ensuring justice for all if it is to gain the trust of its people….

The good old days at the Army Club

The groups wants the government to conduct “a reliable and transparent investigation to assure its people that such forms of violence would never recur, and to ensure the protection of advocates pushing for accountability.”

Those responsible would “need to be held accountable, regardless of position or political affiliation. Without this accountability, the right to fundamental freedoms, and the ability of the public to trust its Government remains compromised.”

While PPT supports such calls, it must be acknowledged that accountability, transparency and impartiality are simply not possible from the current regime.

The military crackdown was ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, leading a Democrat Party coalition government. That Democrat Party was supportive of the 2014 military coup, the resulting junta and is now a part of the pro-military/military-dominated ruling regime. It is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010.

More obviously, the military assaults on red shirt protesters, including the use of snipers, were led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 coup and remain at the apex of the current regime. Such a government is never going to be a part of any effort to establish accountability, transparency and impartiality on 2010. In any case, these former military leaders, who still conduct themselves as soldiers, expect impunity for their actions that protect the ruling class.





Updated: No one forgets 2010

19 05 2020

There’s a trend in academic work that emphasizes memory, memorialization and memory. As it has translated in Thailand, several very smart academics have argued that Thais have forgotten important events, including 1976 and 2010. And, there’s discussion of how to remember. As an example, see one of the several op-eds at the Thai Enquirer today.

We feel this is too academic and too detached from the reality of the almost two-month long Battle for Bangkok. No one who was involved has forgotten. Nor do they need “advice” on how to remember. But, it is a decade ago, and many of those talking of memory, forgetting and remembering were too young, too class-disconnected, too bookish or too coddled to be involved and therefore, it is their memories that are constructed, distorted or reoriented. For examples, see the other op-ed at the Thai Enquirer by reformed/reforming/rethinking/unreformed yellow shirts (here, here, here, and here). And, do look at the real effort that this newspaper put into trying to understand 2010 (here, here, here, and here). We don’t agree with everything that is said, but applaud the effort made.

The 19th of May 2010 marked the end of the red shirt struggles. April and May 2010 again revealed the utter brutality of a military that views electoral democracy and people’s sovereignty as a threat to the order it prefers and defends.

It must be recalled that the leadership of today’s regime is born of the military dictatorship – Generals Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Anupong Paojinda, and Apirat Kongsompong – together with former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have never been held accountable for the protesters shot down, injured and killed in those bloody events. These men, blood on their hands, remain at the center of yet another military-backed regime.

These pictures are from both sides of the battle as the military gradually surrounded and then cleared the Rajaprasong area. Blood flowed and no one has been held responsible. Unfortunately, while no one involved forgets, it is Jatuporn Promphan who captures the essence of “remembering” for those defeated by the military’s armed excess:

“The truth is that this is the deadliest fight for democracy in Thailand…. Over the past 10 years, the Redshirts have been living humbly because we know that there is no way for us to fight. We can only seek for justice, but it will not be delivered.”

Update: It was at Wat Pathum Wanaram that – according to the courts and eye witnesses – the military gunned down people, including medics, in a zone they had declared “safe.” Since those murders, the military has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence witnesses and silence campaigners. Of course, the military has a lot to hide. Sadly, the military has also used the virus to close the temple on the anniversary of its murderous assault.

 





Updated: Appalling Abhisit

18 05 2020

Like the military, the appalling Abhisit Vejjajiva and the (Anti)Democrat Party have been spooked into responding to the illuminations of sites in Bangkok that remembered and questioned the military’s crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

As we previously posted and is widely known, the crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

In a Bangkok Post report, Abhisit reportedly claimed:

he thinks the country has yet to recover from the decade-old wounds despite several legal cases connected to the red-shirt mass protest having been settled in court and an independent panel shedding light on what happened.

Like his “book,” called The Simple Truth – a travesty of untruth – Abhisit’s observation here is misleading. The “independent” panel was, in fact, appointed by his regime and almost none of the cases that matter have been “settled in court.” In fact, as Khaosod reports, despite courts finding that the military murdered red shirts and bystanders, “[t]en years after a military crackdown that left about 90 people dead, no army personnel has ever stood trial over the killings…”.

Abhisit and Suthep have never been held accountable. When they were charged they defended themselves with spurious accounts and by claiming the police could not investigate them. They claimed that the charges were a subterfuge by political opponents, insisted that most of the deaths were the work of terrorists – men in black – and that the use of weapons and lethal force was justified by terrorist attacks on the military. Supporting them, the military leadership repeatedly claimed that it did not kill any protesters. Then Deputy Army Commander General Prayuth stated: “My subordinates did not kill anyone, but they were shot at…”.

The good old days at the Army Club

The charges failed because the lapdog of military and royalist regimes, the NACC rejected malfeasance allegations against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong. Following the defendant’s script, he NACC considered the red shirt protests were not peaceful with armed militants among the demonstrators. Because of this, the NACC agreed that regime had acted legally in authorizing armed personnel to reclaim the demonstration sites and that they had to protect themselves and did so in accord with “international standards.” All allegations and charges against Abhisit, Suthep and Anupong were dismissed.

No one seriously expects justice in royalist Thailand.

This year, Abhisit continues to blame Thaksin Shinawatra and his parties.

Let’s have that coup!

Startlingly, Abhisit now says: “We all should look ahead and work together with an open mind to prevent the preconditions for military coups…”. He apparently thinks all Thais are morons and have short memories. Arguably, Abhisit ranks second behind Suthep in the stridency of calls for a military coup. In allowing his Democrat Party to repeatedly sabotage parliamentary politics and in taking to the streets several times to hasten a coup, Abhisit would be better advised to shut his mouth and avoid the buffalo manure drivel that emanates from that aperture.

He’s supported in his avoidance of justice when the Democrat Party avers:

“The allegation [against Abhisit] has been already disproved by contests in the justice system, whether a court of justice or an inquiry by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which already proved that the crackdown was in accordance with the law…”.

“The allegations [against Abhisit] are distortions to defame him.”

The Democrat Party now supports a regime that came to power via the 2014 coup. The credibility of the justice system has been destroyed by the military and its puppet regimes and associated parties.

Abhisit then attacked the illuminations: “The movement’s search was launched with rhetoric that was bent on pointing fingers, which is not the way to attain the truth.” If there’s one thing the appalling Abhisit has shown that he can avoid, it is the truth. And, he reckons Thailand can’t handle the truth (unless it is his truth).

Update: The renewed attention to the murderous events of April and May 2010 have pricked the military-supporting Democrat Party. According to Khaosod, the anti-democratic party “will take legal action against anyone who accuses its former leader of illegitimately ordering a military crackdown on Redshirt protesters that left about 90 people dead 10 years ago.” The unpopular party claims that such “accusations” are libelous. In Thailand, the libel and defamation laws and threats to use it is often used by criminals, liars and the powerful to silence whistleblowers and critics. Truth is often suppressed by such actions.





Truth, May 2010, no remorse

13 05 2020

After the illumination attacks on King Vajiralongkorn in Germany, illuminations of sites in Bangkok have remembered and questioned the military’s murderous crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

Prachatai reported that messages “projected onto key locations of the May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protests” on Sunday night and the projected hashtag “#FindingTruth” (“#ตามหาความจริง”) trending on Twitter. The projections appeared just “a week before the 10th anniversary of the May 2020 crackdown on Red Shirt protestors on 19 May.”

The crackdowns were ordered by then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban. The murderous military assaults, including the use of snipers, was led by Gen Anupong Paojinda and Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, among others, many of who were a part of the junta regime after the 2014 military coup and remain part of the current regime.

The locations included “Wat Pathum Wanaram, Soi Rangnam, the Ministry of Defence, and the Democracy Monument.”

Other messages were: “May 1992, 2010: killing fields in the city” and “Facts about May 2010: (1) the military forced all Red Shirts out of CTW [Central World] (2) The military took control of the CTW area (3) The fire happened when the military took control of CTW (4) The military wouldn’t let fire trucks in to put out of the fire…”.

The identity of those responsible was, at first, unknown, but the military elements of the regime sprang into repressive action, threatening “legal” action. The Nation reported:

“We do not know the exact purpose of this group but speculate that they have also spread these messages around social media to gain a wider audience,” Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said. “It seems they are trying to bring up past political events, but this could lead to misunderstanding by authorities and institutes.”

Lt-Gen Kongcheep continued:

“I personally find it inappropriate to project these messages on government and public buildings, which could spark disagreement amid a crisis that the country is already facing. If the group wants to seek the truth, they can find it from evidence in legal cases, some of which have already seen verdicts while others are awaiting further legal procedures…”.

Of course, this is buffalo manure. As Prachatai explained, the:

casualties of the April-May 2010 crackdowns included unarmed protestors, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders. While the Abhisit government claimed that the protestors were ‘terrorists,’ news reports, pictures, and video footage show that none of the victims were armed, and until now, no trace of gunpowder has been found on any protestors’ hands. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report, the excessive and unnecessary force used by the military caused the high number of death and injuries, including the enforcement of “live fire zones” around the protest sites in which sharpshooters and snipers were deployed. No officials responsible for the crackdowns have so far been held accountable for these casualties.

Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch is clear, saying the projections are “a sign of popular support for the demand for truth about the 2010 violence…”. He observes:

… the government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, just like its predecessors, has no answers for those demanding justice for at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010….

In the decade since, the authorities have conducted no serious investigations to prosecute government officials responsible for crimes. While protest leaders and their supporters have faced serious criminal charges, successive Thai governments have made paltry efforts to hold policymakers, commanding officers, and soldiers accountable.

Under pressure from the military, authorities made insufficient efforts to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped against former Prime Minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda over their failure to prevent the wrongful use of force by the military that caused deaths and destruction of property. To add insult to injury, Thai authorities have also targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims.

Khaosod reported that the “Defense Ministry will file legal action against those responsible for a light spectacle…”, although it was not clear what the charges would be.  According to the Bangkok Post, “Pol Col Kissana Phatanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police Office, said on Tuesday that legal police officers were considering which laws were violated and who should face charges.”

We suppose that the regime can concoct something, including using the current emergency decree, even if Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan seemed stumped.

Meanwhile, the “Progressive Movement, a group of politicians loyal to the now-disbanded Future Forward Party, appeared to claim responsibility for the actions Monday night by posting a timelapse , behind-the-scenes video from inside a van.” The Nation confirmed:

The group also said on its Twitter account that the authorities had no need to track them down….

“The truth might make some people uncomfortable and they may try to silence it but the truth will set us free from your lies,” the group boldly announced on Twitter. “We are no longer your slaves. Find the truth with us on our Progressive Movement Facebook page between May 12 and 20,” it added.

Lacking any remorse, the military is insistent that action be taken against protesters who did not gather and merely composed projections. Its political allies are threatening that the “Move Forward Party, a reincarnation of Future Forward Party, may face dissolution for sharing images of messages with a political tone that were recently projected in public places across the capital…”.

Interestingly, much political discontent is simmering. As The Nation reports, a “large crowd of mourners, many dressed in red, paid tribute to [lese majeste victim] Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul on Sunday (May 10) as the pro-democracy fighter better known as Da Torpedo was laid to rest in Bangkok.” The report notes that: “Her funeral marked the first large pro-democracy gathering during lockdown. Many mourners dressed in red instead of black to demonstrate their determination to carry forward Da Torpedo’s fight for democracy.”

The regime and its murderous military appear worried.





A dull party for the dolts of nothingness

10 03 2020

It seems the Bangkok Post’s board of the hugely wealthy has decided that one of their own – Korn Chatikavanij – offers a chance of the non-military elite having one of their own as a future premier. They keep promoting him, this time with an interview.

Elite chums

Korn is so boring. So boring that not even a nifty party name like Kla (Dare) can save him from the dullness of nothingness.

The boring rich man left the Democrat Party – at least he has that going for him – even if it is because his “leadership qualities” were apparently not as valued as much as he wanted.

Korn was, for a time, a minister under his school chum Abhisit Vejjajiva. He seemed to enjoy that spotlight and wants it again.

But read the interview. What policies does Kla have? None that he mentions. He seems not to have had any real thoughts or insights for years but displays the ruling class’s instinct for supporting royalist and reactionary causes. The interview is all marketing talk for a party that’s a vehicle for self promotion. But like the lazy rich, even self-promotion is tiring and he needs friends to push him to work.

Korn and Kla are hopeless rather than offering any hope for anyone, not even his ruling class buddies.





Red shirts engaged in political struggle

15 08 2019

Khaosod reports that the Court of First Instance has acquitted 24 red shirt leaders of terrorism charges related to protests in 2010.

Most significantly, in its ruling, the Court “stated that the Redshirt leaders engaged in ‘a political struggle and not an act of terrorism’.” However, one of the defendants, Weng Tojirakarn, said that “the prosecutor will likely appeal the lower court’s decision.

In fact, it was state officials who have been found by several courts to be responsible for most of the murders that took place in April and May 2010. Independent reports tend to agree.

Those who ordered the bloody crackdowns in 2010 – Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban – got off (but have been ruthlessly punished by voters) and their eager military accomplices murdered with impunity, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha and General Anupong Paojinda.





Updated: Democrat Party and military domination

4 06 2019

It was always going to happen. The Democrat Party has agreed to lie with the junta and its 19 party coalition. All of the buffalo manure of recent days represented a small battle within the party, a negotiation strategy and a smokescreen.

Why was it always going to happen? Several reasons. First, the Democrat Party’s history is peppered with long periods where the party has worked for military political interventions and has supported military governments and military dictatorships. Second, in recent years, the party has shown a disdain for electoral democracy, boycotting elections (2006, 2014), rioting in parliament, working with the military to establish a Democrat Party-led coalition in 2008, and cheered the military to run its coups in 2006 and 2014.

But these more recent events also weakened the party. In the 2019 “election,” those who usually supported the Democrat Party had a choice to make between a fully-fledged military party and a Democrat Party that campaigned as junta-lite. The result was that the Democrat Party was deserted by its rightist supporters.

Now, as the Bangkok Post reports, the “Democrat Party has voted overwhelmingly to join the Palang Pracharath alliance, sealing the deal for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to continue as prime minister and for the pro-regime party to form a government with a slim majority of 254 votes.”

 Principles: Buddies then.

As it was a secret ballot, there’s an intriguing question as the vote was by party executives and MPs who voted 61-16 to join the junta’s coalition. If any of those who voted against were MPs, then the junta’s coalition will be shaky from the outset.

The junta welcomed the Democrat Party back to its natural home.

Principles: Abhisit and Suthep as anti-democrats

Update: Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as a member of parliament just a short time before parliament was meant to convene for what the junta hopes is an anointing Gen Prayuth. He stated “he could not break his word and follow his Democrat Party’s resolution to support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as the next prime minister.” He then babbled that in his “political career, I adhere to ideals and principles…”.

We presume that means being backed by the military to form a government when he wanted to be PM in 2008 and the cold-blooded murder of protesters in 2010. It must also allow for the cheering of two coups, egging the military to intervene. Principled? Hardly.

Principles: Newin and Abhisit





On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.





No justice

19 05 2019

Human Right Watch has issued a statement on the anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s bloody military crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2010. We reproduce bits of it here.

Thai authorities have failed to punish policymakers, military commanders, and soldiers responsible for the deadly crackdown on “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2019, the military prosecutor decided not to indict eight soldiers accused of fatally shooting six civilians in Bangkok’s Wat Pathumwanaram temple on May 19, 2010.

“Despite overwhelming evidence, Thai authorities have failed to hold officials accountable for gunning down protesters, medics, and reporters during the bloody crackdown in 2010,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The military prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against eight soldiers is the latest insult to families of victims who want justice.”

The military prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence and no witnesses to the killing. This decision contradicted the Bangkok Criminal Court’s inquest in August 2013, which found that the residue of bullets inside the victims’ bodies was the same type of ammunition issued to soldiers operating in the area at the time of the shooting. Based on information from the Justice Ministry’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI), witness accounts, and other evidence, the inquest concluded that soldiers from the Ranger Battalion, Special Force Group 2, Erawan Military Camp fired their assault rifles into the temple from their positions on the elevated train track in front of Wat Pathumwanaram temple….

According to the DSI, at least 98 people died and more than 2,000 were injured….

The high number of casualties—including unarmed protesters, volunteer medics, reporters, photographers, and bystanders—resulted in part from the government’s enforcement of “live fire zones” around the UDD protest sites in Bangkok, where sharpshooters and snipers were deployed….

All those criminally responsible should be held to account whatever their political affiliation or official position. But over the past nine years, there have been a series of cover-ups that have ensured impunity for senior government officials and military personnel. Successive Thai governments charged UDD leaders and supporters with serious criminal offenses but ignored rights abuses by soldiers. Under pressure from the military, deliberately insufficient investigative efforts have been made to identify the soldiers and commanding officers responsible for the shootings. Criminal and disciplinary cases were dropped in 2016 against former prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, and former army chief Gen. Anupong Paojinda…. Thai authorities have targeted for intimidation and prosecution witnesses and families of the victims who demand justice.

It is outrageous that the military has been allowed to walk away scot-free from deadly crimes committed in downtown Bangkok,” Adams said….