On May 1992, part III

18 05 2015

PPT’s third and final post today is also on the commemoration of the events of the civilian rising against military-dominated politics in May 1992. In both the earlier posts, here and here, we were concerned at the attempt by various individuals and groups attempting to rewrite history by making this event one that is bizarrely congruent with the May 2014 coup and anti-democracy.

As if to prove how disingenuous this tripe is, a revealing report at Prachatai indicates the nature of the current military dictatorship.

Simply and nastily, the dictatorship “ordered  a cancellation of public speeches of anti-military figures at an event to commemorate democratic uprising in May 1992.”

At “the Heroes of Democracy Foundation, a group of military officers on Saturday came into the office of the foundation in Pak Kret District of Nonthaburi Province, north of Bangkok, at around 1 pm and ordered the foundation staffs to cut out a planned speech session by pro-democracy speakers.”

One of the speakers was to be Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, who is a well-recognized anti-coup protester, and “slum angel.” Others due to speak included Weng Tojirakarn, a red shirt leader, and Chalard Worachat, an activist known for his hunger strike against the 1992 military intervention and which was a principled protest leading to the civilian uprising.

The military dictatorship prefers a version of history sanitized of its murders. As the brief Wikipedia account explains, an “investigation”  by the “Defense Ministry’s Fact Finding Committee led by General Pichitr Kullavanijaya,” identified military culprits, “but it is still kept from the Thai public.”

Pichitr has been rewarded by being made one of the king’s privy councilors and is a royalist political activist.

Thailand must learn the lessons of history

23 05 2011

PPT reproduces this Statement by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, forwarded by the AHRC. Apologies for being slow in getting it up.



May 23, 2011


A Statement from Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission


THAILAND: Thailand must learn the lessons of history


Statement on the 19th Anniversary of the Black May Incident


18 May 2011

18 May 2011 marks the 19th anniversary of what Thai people remember as “1992 Black May incident,” when a popular uprising was met with brutal and violent suppression by the military. Official reports put the death toll at 44 with 38 missing, however in actual, more people were victimized. The victims’ families continue to suffer because of the non-revelation of the truth and the absence of justice.

Almost two decades have passed since the gruesome massacre. Many questions still remain unanswered. Even the final death toll is still being disputed while the families of those who went missing continue their long and agonizing search for truth and justice.

Though the traumatic event of 1992 has triggered the demands for change that led Thailand in the road to democracy, this path is always chaotic and sometimes, violent. Human rights have always been sacrificed.

The Thai government must therefore recognize that the future of its fledgling democracy lies in dealing with its dark past. If it is to move forward towards achieving a long and lasting peace, it must first remember its own history and learn from it.

The long-delayed project to build a monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue would have been a good start. The Black May monument, if finally established, will stand as a stark reminder that violence must never again be used to settle political differences because it is doom to fail.

While lives lost can never be replaced, a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing, however hurtful, can help mend the deepening wounds of the Thai society so that the process of reconciliation can start.

Nevertheless, the recognition of past human rights violations is not enough to engender the culture of transparency and accountability. It necessitates sincere commitment of the state to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens. Doing such complementary efforts both for the past and for the present will bring the country to the road to genuine democracy that will guarantee the future of its citizens.

Thailand, which prides itself for being a party to seven out of the nine core human rights treaties, however fails to make human rights a reality on the ground. The issue of state impunity on the human rights violations committed in the context of the ongoing military operations in southern provinces remains unsettled. Even its promise before the international community that it will prioritize the speedy resolution of the disappearance case of human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit turned empty when on 11 March 2011, the Appeals Court acquitted the five police officers charged with the offense of coercion and robbery.

Today as the Relatives Committee of the May 1992 Heroes commemorates the 19th anniversary of “1992 Black May Incident,” the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) expresses its firm solidarity with them and with all the families of victims of human rights violations in Thailand and around the world as we reiterate our collective call to the Thai government to move beyond human rights rhetoric and fulfill its international human rights obligations.

The call of for national reconciliation of the Thai government can only be made possible if it will lead by example. It can concretely do so by seriously investigating the past crimes, in identifying those responsible for human rights violations and imposing sanctions on them, providing reparations to victims and families, preventing future violations, and preserving and enhancing genuine and lasting peace.

There can never be peace and reconciliation without truth and justice.

Signed by:


Chairperson, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances


Secretary-General, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

The Nation’s intricate plot story

11 08 2009

The Nation newspaper has long been vehemently anti-Thaksin Shinawatra. There was some reason for this, with the paper and some of its journalists being harassed when the Thaksin government was in power. But often some of the columnists at the paper have adopted dubious tactics to attack Thaksin as the man they hate and those they see as supporting him. Some of their stories and columns would not qualify as journalism; personal attacks and unsupported allegations have been too common.

Now the paper seems to be seeking grand conspiracies and trying to engender fear amonst its readers. PPT wishes to comment on The Nation’s editorial of 10 August 2009 (“Suchinda’s objection tips balance of power”) not because we believe it but because it is arguably the oddest turn yet in the “royal pardon” petition. PPT should add that we have seen no evidence that would support the allegations made.

Late last week, General Suchinda Kraprayoon attacked the red shirt petition during his 76th birthday celebrations. Suchinda was the leader of the military coup that ousted the elected government of Chatichai Choonhavan in February 1991. After the elections in March 1992, Suchinda – who had said he wouldn’t take the position – was suddenly nominated at prime minister. Protests against the military and Suchinda escalated, culminating in the events known as “Black May,” when dozens – some say hundreds – of unarmed people were shot when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators.

Now The Nation considers Suchinda an impeccable ally in the fight against Thaksin. The editorial says approvingly, “He made it clear he did not agree with their attempt to mobilise seven million signatures nationwide as part of a campaign to seek a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra. Suchinda’s words are crucial, coming at a time when political polarisation in this country has heightened to the point it could break up into another episode of violence. It should be noted that Suchinda, who lost his power in the 1992 May tragedy, still musters enormous influence in politics. He still has the ears of most of the military top brass. By voicing his objection against the red-shirt protesters’ signature campaign, Suchinda has tipped the balance of power away from the red camp…”.

The May 1992 massacre in The Nation’s revision is now a “tragedy” and Suchinda is somehow a figure who is uniting and not “polarizing.”

Then the editorialist begins constructing a grand conspiracy. Not only is Thaksin conspiring, but so is “the blue camp, led by General Pravit Wongsuwan and Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda.” This is quite a claim!

Further, “The red camp and the blue camp have formed an alliance at this critical juncture, where a behind-the-scenes power play is being exerted at full force. The police force belongs to the red camp, while about half of the military force back the blue camp. Except for the Democrats, most of the politicians in the House of Representatives either support the red camp or the blue camp.”

So it is that “Sondhi Limthongkul’s yellow camp now feels largely relieved by General Suchinda’s fresh move. So does Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who also has some breathing room to manoeuvre.” So it is Abhisit and Sondhi against the combined forces of red and blue evil for the “blue and red camps had threatened to bring the Abhisit government down if [police chief] Patcharawat were to be sacked.”

And continuing The Nation’s attack on Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who “has acted as a link between the Democrats and the red and blue camps,” his role is characterized as so perplexing “that nobody is certain which side he is on now. Increasingly, Suthep will be isolated from his party as Abhisit seeks to become his own man.”

The Nation says that the “situation remains intense in all camps. Nobody dares to breathe.”

Evidence for this alleged conspiracy? “General Anupong earlier showed his position by saying that as a military adviser to His Majesty the King, he had no opinion on the royal petition drive on behalf of Thaksin.” That’s it, but then it is also added that “ General Surayuth Chulnanont, former prime minister and now member of the Privy Council, also brushed aside this question by saying he had no opinion.” Is Surayud also of questionable loyalty?

The Nation editorialists observes that “Only General Phichit Kulavanitr, another member of the Privy Council, came out strongly against the red-shirted protesters’ petition drive. He blasted the red shirts for their attempts to politicise the monarchy for their own interests.”

Any more evidence? Yes, says the Nation: The outcome of the investigation into the assassination attempt against Sondhi “has uncovered the suspects as belonging to some prominent members of the red camp and the blue camp. Of course, both camps would exercise all power at their disposal, on the ground and underground, to block the police investigation. Many of their prominent members could go to jail as a result of this case.”

What about the petition? According to the editorial, this is “equally threatening to the political stability…”, as red shirts “plan to come out in tens of thousands to make their way in fanfare to the Grand Palace to submit the petition before mobilising a rally at Sanam Luang. We all know with a good conscience that this petition is morally wrong and legally wrong…. The act of seeking a royal pardon for Thaksin is no more than an outright challenge to the integrity of the Thai Monarchy.”

The Nation then claims that this situation “is designed to repeat the red shirts’ attempt at a People’s Revolution on Songkran Day of April 13, 2009.” They failed then, but “Now they are regrouping and planning another attack or another attempt at the People’s Revolution for the benefit of one individual.” This is incendiary speculation and part of the fear tactics that the conservative forces have been using.

So if we are to believe the Nation, in the context of the Thaksin petition and the turmoil in politics:

Suthep is a traitor.
The army chief, who was a 2006 coup leader and who crushed the Songkhran Uprising, is a traitor.
Surayud is likely to be a traitor.
Sondhi and Abhisit are aligned for the side of good against evil.
The blue shirts, who attacked the red shirts in Pattaya in April, are now allied with the reds.
That must make Newin Chidchob, the man behind the blue shirts, a double traitor because he deserted Thaksin in December but must be going back.
The red shirts have a plan for People’s Revolution beginning 17 August.

As noted above, PPT has no grounds for believing that the Nation newspaper editorialist has any real evidence for the claims made. We can readily admit that conspiracies are a regular feature of Thai politics, so there may be something more than rumor and innuendo going on. Perhaps, maybe… but does this an editorial make?

Even if the Nation editorialist somehow turned out to be a superlative astrologer, serious questions need to be asked of this style of “journalism.” The use of a general with blood on his hands for moral support, the exhortation to fear and the failure to provide credible evidence for such remarkable claims leaves PPT wondering why The Nation allows its “journalism” to descend to tabloid status. The Nation was once a newspaper that wanted to be taken seriously.

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