BANGKOK — A religious ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of a deadly crackdown on Redshirt protesters is moved from the usual venue due to the coronavirus outbreak, activists said Thursday.
The event dedicated to the memories of those killed in the crackdown, which culminated in a final assault on May 19, 2010, will take place at a conference hall inside Every Mall on Rattanathibet Road, Redshirt leader Thida Thavornseth said. Up to 90 people died in the months-long violence.
The annual ceremony usually took place at a temple in northern Bangkok.
“We don’t want to make the temple uncomfortable with our gathering, so we decided to move it to our own place,” Thida said.
This year’s remembrance will only open to Redshirt leaders and representatives of various Redshirt groups, as the organizers feared that a large gathering could lead officials to shut down the event by the Emergency Decree, Thida said.
In compliance with health regulations, attendance will be based on invitations and social distancing measures will be implemented, she added. The Emergency Decree bans large gatherings and any acts deemed to cause “unrest.”
A separate event is likely to be held as usual at Ratchaprasong Intersection on the same day, pro-democracy activist Nutta Mahattana said. The victims’ families and activists from various groups will hold a candlelight vigil and lay red roses there.
“We haven’t planned it formally. I believe the victims’ relatives and activists will come naturally by their own will,” Nutta said. “But I expect to see fewer people joining this year.”
The downtown business district was occupied by Redshirt protesters for a month before they were dispersed by the military on May 19, 2010. At least 90 people, mostly civilians, died during the confrontation that spanned the months of April and May that year.
On Wednesday night, a candlelight vigil was held in front of an entrance of MRT Lumphini where one of the Redshirt leaders, Khattiya Sawasdipol, was mortally wounded by a sniper fire while he was giving an interview with foreign journalists on May 13, 2010. He died a few days later, on May 17, 2010.
No one has since been held responsible for his murder.
Khattiya’s daughter, Khattiyah Sawasdipol, and several Redshirt supporters attended the event. Khattiyah, who took up a career as a politician after the death of his father, said she wanted to remind the new generations of what happened.
“I’m glad that people still share their thoughts to my father,” Khattiyah said. “My father’s case is still heading nowhere and there’s nothing much I can do about it. It will expire soon but I will continue to fight to the end.”
A group calling itself the Progressive Movement also claimed responsibility for projecting lasers onto several buildings in Bangkok with messages calling for “truth” in the 2010 crackdown. The group consisted of politicians from the now disbanded Future Forward Party.
Asked whether the Redshirts’ umbrella organization, the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), is involved in the spectacle, Thida said she has not been in contact with the group.
“We haven’t talked to each other,” Thida said. “But I believe that they do it because it reflects their agenda on military and judiciary reforms. It’s a good thing to see innovation in the means of protest.”