Monday, April 20, 2009

Nick Nostitz Report on the Crushing of the Red Shirts

New Mandala:

Red Shirts are convinced that a number of their members have been killed (and I have strong suspicions that they are not too wrong in this assessment, but have no evidence or proof whatsoever). The government has to organise an official and neutral inquiry. And it has to stop lying that only fake bullets were used, and only fired into the air. I have photos of bullet holes, where I have seen soldiers firing. The bullet that passed a few meters above my head in the leaves of a tree under which I was hiding in the early hours at Din Daeng was not a fake bullet or sprung out of my imagination, and given the distance and angle of the shooter from the military lines, the difference of the elevation of the muzzle was not more than a few centimeters. This was clearly a shot fired in the direction of the crowd and not into the sky. I have seen soldiers refilling their magazines with copperhead bullets. They were not fake bullets.

The Red Shirts complain about double standards. They are not too wrong about this either. When the PAD occupied Government House, Abhisit personally interfered on the ground at Makhawan Bridge in the court ordered police dispersal. No action was taken when Samak declared Emergency Rule, and when the airports were occupied, no action whatsoever was taken by the Army.

There is no doubt that things went completely wrong, and also the Red Shirt leadership has to take responsibility for much that happened. When they declared their D-Day, and their indefinite protest at Government House, they overestimated their abilities, they also overestimated their ability to control the deep-seated anger and sense of injustice among their supporters. I refuse, however, to accept the present tone of the Thai media that demonises the Red Shirts. Much of the escalation is the responsibility of the Government. How, for example can it happen that PAD guards and Navy personnel can appear disguised as “Blue Shirts”, who have collaborated with the security forces, as is proven beyond doubt, to engage in clashes with Red Shirts? That was not the decision of a local commander - this has been a top level political decision.

This is reminiscent of the dirty games and strategies of the 1970s, of extreme right wing militias, such as Navapol and Kratingdaeng, who with high level government and military support acted as agent provocateurs. Are we really back in this dark era of Thailand’s history? Have we not learned one thing?

I very much doubt that the crackdown has persuaded the Red Shirt supporters to suddenly support Prime Minister Abhisit and his government. There are indications that some groups will continue from the underground, and a low level insurgency might result. I wonder very much what can be done to begin reconciliation, and if the government is even willing to take the necessary steps beyond statements of intent that I suspect are nothing but spin. There have to be substantial negotiations, and a compromise. But that entails that some of the demands of the Red Shirts have to be met. The Red Shirts have to be heard, much of what they say is valid criticism, and a contribution to progress in Thailand. To accuse them of simply being tools of Thaksin to get his wealth back, is an extremely dangerous misjudgment based on ideology and not on fact.

Excellent report.

Nick must be given credit for risking life and limb for little compensation and glory to get the story on the front lines.

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