The past few days have been a terrible tragedy for the Kingdom of Thailand, as peaceful pro-democracy protests were met with force, first by state sponsored armed militias, then by the state itself. Well over a hundred protesters suffered injuries, and an unknown number of people have died.
Like all Thais everywhere, I was horrified to watch these events and want to express my sympathies and condolences to all those injured, including those in the security forces. They are our brothers, too, and although I strongly condemn the use of state violence against the Thai people, I also recognize that these foot soldiers were only carrying out orders. The blame must lay squarely with their superiors and with the government.
I have been giving this pro-democracy movement moral support for many weeks now, encouraging the people through video link and phone calls to fight for their democratic rights. In my remarks, I repeatedly emphasized the importance that this pro-democracy movement be peaceful, and that this peoples’ revolution be non-violent. Tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of Thais answered that call, rallying peacefully in recent weeks to demand the return of real democracy to Thailand. I have been proud and deeply moved by the commitment of so many Thais to this cause – a call for “democracy for all”.
Those who have joined this movement are not just my supporters. On the contrary, the majority of people who have suffered through sweltering heat and rain showers to make their voices heard have been students, academics, housewives, businesspeople, and even policemen and other civil servants who have decided that the time has come to say no to the politics of intervention by the military. The time has come to reject a political order that repeatedly overturns the will of the people. And the time has come to demand a Thailand where all Thais enjoy the same rights, with equality, liberty and justice for all.
For more than three years now, the political elite groups in Bangkok have gone to extraordinary lengths to consolidate power at the expense of the Thai people, shredding all semblance of democracy in the Kingdom. This privileged class nullified the results of an election; executed and supported a coup; imposed an undemocratic constitution on the country; disbanded political parties (but only against those associated with me); supported sustained street protests that led to the takeover of government institutions and even the seizure of our nation’s primary airport in order to bring down another democratically elected government; and then supported the military’s intervention to establish the current Abhisit-led government, in what for all intents and purposes was a not-so-silent “silent coup.”
The “red shirt” pro-democracy movement was born of these repeated injustices and will continue to grow until true democracy is returned to all the Thai people. The blatant hypocrisy of this latest round of events, with the Thai military violently suppressing the pro-democracy “red shirt” movement after indulging, and indeed actively encouraging, the pro-aristocracy “yellow shirt” movement’s seizure of government institutions and the nation’s primary airport earlier this year, will only make our people more determined to fight on.
I reiterate my call here to all my fellow Thais that our struggle for democracy must be non violent. We must build the future we seek through the force of our ideas and our principles, and resist all the suppressive and aggressive attempts by the state and state-sponsored thugs to provoke us and incite us to violence. I know well, as do all who participated in the pro-democracy protests, that the bus burnings and other scenes of alleged red-shirted violence were created by the enemies of democracy with the intention of discrediting our movement. It is all too easy to put on red attributes and run amuck in the streets. Rest assured that the Thai people will not be fooled by this. We absolutely reject any form of violence, and reject the efforts of such enemies to tarnish what we stand for, to portray us as a mob, and to legitimize a crackdown on our people.
This is why the courageous leaders of the pro-democracy movement called on the tens of thousands of Thais still gathered outside Government House and elsewhere in the city to stand down on April 14 and return home. Confronted with tanks, thousands of soldiers and armed militias, and faced with the government’s false pretext of restoring law and order, the leadership of the pro-democracy movement rightly assessed that both their people and innocent bystanders would be badly injured and even get slaughtered if they remained on the streets. The leaders’ number one priority was protecting lives, and I commend them for putting the people first. Too many Thais have died in the past at the hands of the state. We must come together now and say “not this time.” This time, we must resist the temptation and provocation to fall back into the pattern of violence and hatred that has poisoned our politics for so long. We must reject the use of force by and on behalf of the state, just as we reject the determination of the Bangkok elites to rob the vast majority of the Thai people of their fundamental rights.
And so, today, we have stepped back from confrontation. But we will not retreat from our pursuit of democracy. If we are stopped, our work will not rest, for the pursuit of democracy is a just cause. In the end, I am confident that the will of the Thai people will prevail.
April 15, 2009
Courtesy of Prachatai
Of course, The Nation refuses to print it. The Nation is too busy propagating for the Democrat Party and the military.