Subdued Vigil Marks Red Crackdown Anniversary

(10 April) The Redshirts have marked the anniversary of the military crackdown on their protests 4 years ago, while anti-government protesters held a separate vigil for the soldiers who died in the operation.

The Redshirts had been occupying Ratchadamnoen Avenue and the financial district in Bangkok for weeks to demand a fresh election when former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva authorised the military to disperse the protest campsite around Democracy Monument on 10 April. 

The operation failed to dislodge the protesters, and dragged on into a night of chaos. Masked gunmen allied to the Redshirts later appeared and exchanged gunfire with the soldiers, while the troops responded by firing live ammunition towards the demonstrators, before Mr. Abhisit eventually called off the operation.

By the next morning, 29 people were dead, including five soldiers and a Japanese cameraman who was working for Reuters. Another military crackdown in May 2010 finally brought the protests to an end, with a total death toll of more than 90 lives.

Bangkok is experiencing a reverse situation on the 4th anniversary of the "Bloody April" crackdown, with the Prime Minister elected by the Redshirts in power and anti-government protesters led by a deputy of Mr. Abhisit at the time occupying parts of Bangkok, calling for the election in Thailand to be suspended until their demands for nation "reforms" are met.

The Redshirts chose to mark the anniversary with simple exhibition detailing the incident on 10 April 2010 at Imperial World Lat Phrao shopping mall in eastern Bangkok, and a Buddhist ceremony in the morning in memory of Redshirts demonstrators who lost their lives 4 years ago.

The exhibition also featured a musical performance and speeches by core leaders of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) in the evening.

The low-profile event contrasts with mass rallies called by the UDD to commemorate the 10 April crackdown in previous years. Mr. Jatupon Prompan, chairman of the UDD, explained that the idea of holding a rally around Democracy Monument was abandoned due to the presence of anti-government protesters who are encamped near the monument. 

"We don't want to provoke any violence, it may affect our brothers and sisters," Mr. Jatupon said.

A separate ceremony to honour Redshirts demonstrators killed in the violence was conducted by a UDD splinter group in their rally in front of the National Anti-Corruption Commission HQ in Nonthabuir province.

In an ironic twist, a group of anti-government protesters also briefly rallied on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to mark the 4th anniversary of the crackdown, led by Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, sec-gen of the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) and former Deputy Prime Minister who oversaw the deadly crackdown 4 years ago.

However, the PCAD vigil was more focused on the soldiers who lost their lives in the crackdown, including Col. Romklao Thuwatham, a field commander of the attacking troops at the time. 

The demonstrators later marched back to their rally site in Lumpini Park without any incident.

Mr. Suthep and Mr. Abhisit are facing murder charges for their roles in the 2010 crackdown, though Mr. Suthep has postponed his appearance to the court, citing the need to lead his protests against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Both men contested the charge, insisting that any death in the crackdown was caused by shadowy armed militants.

Nevertheless, previous court inquests have indicated that a number of civilians have been killed by soldiers operating under the orders of Mr. Abhisit and Mr. Suthep, including the six civilians who took shelter in a Buddhist temple on 19 May 2010.

 

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