BANGKOK — Ten years after a military crackdown that left about 90 people dead, no army personnel has ever stood trial over the killings, a spokesman said Friday.
Army spokesman Col. Winthai Suvari said he’s aware of accusations from government critics that soldiers were involved in the fatal shootings of civilians during a military operation against the Redshirt protest in 2010, but he stressed that no soldier has ever been formally charged for those alleged actions.
“No one has been accused under the legal system,” Col. Winthai said. “There are talks about it, but it’s up to the Department of Special Investigation. No one has been accused so far.”
The lack of any legal action against the army for its role in the crackdown is seen by the opposition as yet another proof of a culture of impunity; no one has ever been held responsible for other military crackdowns on demonstrators in 1973, 1976, and 1992, either.
Although a court inquest ruled that army personnel were responsible for shooting dead six civilians inside a temple during a final assault on Redshirt encampment on May 19, 2010, the authorities never pursued any legal case against any of the soldiers.
Mother of one of the slain victims inside the temple said she was told by the Department of Special Investigation that the agency has halted any further work into the case.
Phayaw Akkahad, the mother of nurse Kamonkate “Kate” Akkahad killed in the temple shooting, said the DSI told her military court prosecutors have refused to indict the six soldiers identified as the killers, citing a lack of evidence.
“This is about setting a new precedent for the future so that those in power cannot kill people at whim,” the 55-year-old said. “So far, has any soldier been held responsible for the deaths over the years? None. All this despite the fact that the rifles [they used] were procured with taxpayers’ money. I want to fight to set a precedent.”
Phayaw, who’s been staging numerous rallies asking for justice on behalf of her daughter, said she will continue to seek legal actions against the military despite an apparent dead-end.
“I am not going to stop. I still have 10 more years,” Phayao said on the phone, referring to the 20-years statute limitations on murders.
Political scientist Puangthong Pawakawan, whose organization has been tracking the killings that took place during the months of April and May in 2010, said bringing people responsible for those deaths to trial will set a new precedent of justice system for Thailand.
“Those in power never have a lesson,” Puangthong said. “Calling for justice is not just about those who killed, but also about the future.”
Puangthong said her team counted 84 deaths during the clashes in 2010, including 10 soldiers and police officers, as well as two foreign journalists. She warned that a failure to hold anyone responsible for the violence will result in a loss of faith in justice.
“I think some Thai people no longer have hope in the justice system,” said Puangthong, who teaches at Chulalongkorn University.
The Redshirts, mostly supporters of ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, staged protests in March 2010 to call for fresh elections from then-PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, who came to power in 2008 with support from the military.
The military attempted to disperse the protest on April 10, 2010, but retreated after a score of civilian and soldiers were killed. Another military operation brought an end to the protests on May 19, 2010.