Editorial: Fight the Coup, Not the Soldiers

Anti-coup protesters vandalise an army Humvee during a protest at Victory Monument, Bangkok, 28 May 2014

Non-violence should be the watchword of anti-coup protesters.

On 25 May, a Khaosod English correspondent witnessed an anti-coup protester approach a soldier who was watching the demonstration silently and say to his face: "I want to take photo of you so that I can show my grandchildren what animals looked like in my time."

Although the anti-coup rallies cropping up around Thailand have been largely peaceful, almost all of them have involved at least small-scale confrontations between soldiers and protesters. 

Often, these confrontations are initiated by demonstrators seeking the symbolic victory of forcing soldiers to retreat, even if it’s only a step or two. In the past week, we have seen anti-coup protesters — though by no means a majority — yell hateful things, shove themselves up against riot shields, and lob various objects at soldiers in this pursuit.
 
They shouldn't. 
 
Thais have every right to be furious about the most recent coup d’état, and Khaosod English applauds the bravery of those who have defied the military’s ban on public gatherings to come out and advocate for all that is now at stake: basic human rights, rule of law, and Thailand’s electoral democracy, to name a few.
 
But to direct this fury at soldiers, many of whom are drafted by law, is misplaced. It should be clear that none of the soldiers deployed to contain protests had anything to do with last week’s military coup d’état. They are simply following orders that it’s possible many of them fundamentally disagree with. It is irrational and disrespectful to their basic human dignity to treat these soldiers with such scorn.
 
Furthermore, provoking soldiers and inciting confrontations will only weaken, not strengthen Thailand’s budding anti-coup movement. To protest the military coup — an act of aggression — in a purely peaceful manner is both more ideologically coherent than behaving viciously, and more likely to win sympathy and support from the international community.

The foreign countries and international organizations that have come out against the coup are critical allies that Thailand’s pro-democracy movement cannot afford to alienate.
 
Lastly, taunting security forces is just playing with fire. At some point, relentless provocation may lead to a crackdown. This would be tragic for any victims that get caught in the flames, but also for the movement as a whole. Any violence will surely deter people from participating in the protests and drain the movement’s still small numbers. 

It is essential for those advocating for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to pursue these causes with civility and non-violence.

 

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