BANGKOK — The Thai junta has reportedly ordered relatives of those who died in the military crackdown on Redshirt protests in 2010 to cancel a Buddhist ceremony dedicated to the victims.
The merit-making ceremony was scheduled to take place at a temple in Pathum Thani province on Friday, the fifth anniversary of clashes between soldiers and Redshirt protesters that left at least 20 civilians and five soldiers dead. In total, more than 90 people died in the crackdown, which lasted until 19 May 2010.
Redshirts initially planned to organize their annual memorial service at Khok Wua intersection, the site of the clashes, but changed the venue and made the ceremony a strictly religious affair after the junta said the event would violate its ban on political gatherings. Redshirt leaders also said yesterday that the ceremony would only be attended by family members of the victims, and asked other supporters of the Redshirt movement to stay home in compliance with the junta’s orders.
However, a group of military and police officers arrived at the temple where families were preparing for the ceremony today, and asked them to cancel the event entirely, Redshirt leader Jatuporn Prompan told Khaosod English.
According to Jatuporn, who was not at the temple, the commanders leading the soldiers and police asked to speak to him on the phone when they arrived. The chief of police in Pathum Thani, Pol.Maj.Gen. Montri Yimyaem, reportedly told him over the phone that the junta had received intelligence reports that Redshirt leaders would attend the ceremony. Jatuporn said he insisted that the ceremony would only be attended by relatives of the victims, but after a short deliberation, the officers told him the event must be canceled altogether.
"I am disappointed to see that those in power do not use their humanity in making decisions," the Redshirt leader told Khaosod English. "I understand that in the current climate we cannot hold anniversary protests like we did in previous years. That’s why we decided to hold only Buddhist ceremonies."
Yesterday, a junta spokesperson expressed concern that the ceremony could be infiltrated by "indiviudals with ill intentions," who could "misuse" the event for political purposes. The junta banned all political gatherings after seizing power from a Redshirt-backed government in May 2014.
Banjerd Fungklinchan, whose son died in the crackdown, said Pol.Maj.Gen. Montri told the group that he was ordered by the junta to cancel the event. The officer added that the families were free to hold personal merit-making ceremonies at their respective homes, Banjerd said.
"I will just hold a ceremony for my son at my own home, for the sake of peace of mind of the officers and of myself," Banjerd said.
In addition to Pol.Maj.Gen.Montri, the group of security officers and officials were led by Col. Somchai Onsomchit, deputy commander of 2nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, and Phachai Poriyanond, chief of Klong Luang district.
The 2010 crackdown was ordered by then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on 10 April in an effort to disperse tens of thousands of Redshirts who were rallying in Bangkok to demand a new election. As dusk set in, clashes between security officers and shadowy "Blackshirt" militants who were allied to the demonstrators broke out on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok. At least 25 people were killed in the violence, including the commander of the military operation and a Japanese journalist.
The military later mounted another assault on the Redshirts in late May 2010, forcing the movement’s leaders to surrender and call off the protests on 19 May 2010.
Since 2010, Redshirt activists have gathered in Bangkok every 10 April to honor the victims and commemorate the crackdown, which is considered the bloodiest period of political unrest in recent Thai history.
Several military commanders who played major role in the 2010 crackdown are leaders of the current government, including junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, and Minister of Defense Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan.