BANGKOK — The Red Cross Society of Thailand has issued an urgent appeal for blood donations, and insisted that the organization is not affiliated with any political groups in Thailand.
Soisa-ang Pikulsod, director of the Red Cross' blood donation center, told reporters yesterday that blood reserves in Thailand are running perilously low, with over 100 hospitals across the country on a waiting list for the Red Cross blood bank.
Protesters with Red Cross flags in Bangkok in Jan 2015 [Prachatai].
She also stressed that the Red Cross is impartial in matters of Thai politics, addressing the belief among many Redshirts that the organization supported the campaign to oust a Redshirt-allied government last year. The suspcision was spurred by widely-circulated photos of medical workers marching under Red Cross flags during demonstrations against then-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in January 2014.
"Let me stress that the Red Cross is an organization that is strictly impartial," Soisa-ang said yesterday.
The photos from the march led many Redshirts to call for boycotting the Red Cross, though no Redshirt leaders officially endorsed the boycott.
"Concerning the past usage of Red Cross symbol in politics, the Red Cross has already issued a letter of complaint to the offenders, and explained about appropriate usage of Red Cross symbol," Soisa-ang said yesterday.
After photos of the Red Cross flags in the anti-government demonstration began circulating on social media last year, theThai Red Cross Facebook published a post asking all groups to refrain from using Red Cross symbols in political rallies.
"Every individual and every profession has the right to give support to certain side, but they should not use Red Cross symbols in their activities, because it may cause misunderstanding," said the post, published on 21 January 2014. "The Red Cross is not supporting any side. We are impartial, in accordance with the Seven Principles of the Red Cross. We'd like to urge all individuals not to use Red Cross symbols in a wrong way."
An army checkpoint in Bangkok with a Red Cross flag, March 2014.
In March 2014 the Thai Red Cross also sent a letter of complaint to the Royal Thai Army for using Red Cross flags on its checkpoints in Bangkok. The organization asked the military to remove the flags on the grounds that some of the soldiers who manned the checkpoints were armed – a violation of the international principles on using Red Cross symbols, according to the letter. The army complied with the request.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Soisa-ang also dismissed allegations that the "Red Cross does not want peasant blood."
"The Red Cross cannot forbid certain individuals or groups from donating their blood," Soisa-ang said. "The Red Cross welcomes blood from anyone who is healthy and qualified for the health regulation. Therefore, I would like to make a plea, don't connect the Red Cross to political issues. Saving people's lives are the most important duty of the Red Cross."
She added that the situation has been improving and more people are donating blood after the Red Cross made an appeal on social media.
"After we announced that the Red Cross is in need of blood, many people donated," Soisa-ang said.
Members of the public who are interested in the blood drive can make the donation at the Red Cross headquarters on Henri Dunant Road on any day of the week, she said.
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