3 Years After The Crackdown, Redshirts Are Back

(19 May) Redshirts are back at Ratchaprasong intersection in central Bangkok to commemorate the military assault which violently ended their months-long protest at the intersection 3 years ago.

The Redshirts staged mass protests in March 2010, demanding the resignation of then-PM Abhisit Vejjajeeva and calling a fresh election. Mr. Abhisit, a long time opposition leader, was appointed new PM of Thailand by the parliamentary votes in late 2008, particularly helped by drawing supports from renegade MPs of the ruling party at the time.

Before Mr. Abhisit came to power, 2 prime ministers were ousted by the court, citing corruption cases. Mr. Abhisit never won any election in his career.

The Redshirts, mostly supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra who was overthrown by the military coup in 2006, saw Mr. Abhisit′s rise to power and his alleged alliance with the military as obstacles to democracy in Thailand.

Today′s event was titled 3 Years 19 May: Remember the Brave Martyrs, Seek the Justice. In a scene that resembles their peak strength in April 2010, tens of thousands of Redshirts today flooded the city′s financial district, occupying stretches of Rama IV Road, Ratchaprasong, Pratunam, Rajdumri, and Siam. Some shopping malls decided to shut down for the day.

Protesters sat around on pavements, roads, and elevated Skywalks under the soaring heat to listen to the speeches and songs performed on the rally stage at Ratchaprasong intersection. Vendors and hawkers sell food, drinks, and Redshirts-related memorabilia. Some offered Thai massage service for the wearied protesters.

Some Redshirts prayed tothe Erawan Shrine – a landmark of Ratchaprasong area – asking for blessing and democracy for the country.

At 13.30 Ms. Tida Tojirakarn, chairwoman of the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) arrived at Pathumwanararm Temple (commonly known as Wat Pathum) to lay down wreaths in memory of 6 civilians who were shot dead inside the temple on 19 May.

The temple was declared ?Safe Zone? by the Thai authorities at the time and many Redshirts took refuge in the temple compound after their main encampment was overrun by the military, but witnesses said soldiers om BTS track opened fire on the temple, killing 6 civilians, including a medic volunteers named Ms. Kamonkate Akhard, aka. Nurse Kate.

Ms. Tida said that it′s been 3 years since the authorities killed the people, and today events were organized to salute the martyrs who fought for democracy. She said the incident at Wat Pathum was particularly shocking because the temple was not a conflict zone, yet the military fired on are handed protesters.

The UDD chairwoman was accompanied by Ms. Payao Akhard, mother of Nurse Kate; Ms. Elizabeth Polenghi, sister of Italian photographer Mr. Fabio Polenghi who was shot and killed on 19 May 2010; and Mr. Robert Amsterdam, UDD′s legal adviser.

After the wreaths laying ceremony, a skit commemorating the incident was performed, retelling the scenes of Wat Pathum shooting and the killing of Mr. Hiroyuki Muramoto, the Japanese journalist shot and killed during the clashes in 10 April 2010.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sombat Boonngam-anong, aka. the Dotted Editor (Bor Gor Lai Jood), coordinator of the Red Sunday campaign group, led his group to tie red ribbons at the Ratchaprasong intersection roadsign – the gesture initiated by the Red Sunday group few months after the military operation in May 2010 which considerably irritated the authorities of the time.

During that time, martial laws was still effective in Bangkok,and Mr. Sombat′s weekly ribbon-tying activity was a rare defiant move. Bangkok authorities ended up removing the roadsign from the intersection for a while, thus denying Mr. Sombat his stable activism.

Today, Mr. Sombat said that the incident 3 years ago rewrote the history of Ratchaprasong area, transforming it from a commercial heartland into a killing field, the site of political crime.

We tie the red ribbons again today to signify that we still do not forget what happened, Mr. Sombat said.

Our correspondent added that earlier in the day, a Redshirt identified as Ms. Kaikee Wongrasee, 68, a resident of Sakol Nakorn province, was found dead in Wat Pathum′s restroom. Her boy was transferred to Police Hospital, just opposite the temple, and her death was said to result from her poor health.

UDD representative said the organization will contribute money to organize Ms. Kaikee′s funeral and some leaders will attend her funeral as well.

The events continued into the night, with famous Redshirts leaders giving rousing speeches on the stage, urging the Redshirts to keep their fights for justice. The rally is estimated to last till 01.00 on the next day.