*IBRAHIM ISA – Focus on Thailand*

*Monday, May 17, 2010*



Dear readers,

A close friend of mine, a humanrights activist, sent me the following 

. . . . .

As you may know, the political situation in Thailand is getting worse 
and out of control, with a high number of death tolls and injuries. I'm 
sending you a brief summary of the recent crackdown on red-shirts 
demonstrators, written by a friend of mine, as it might be useful for 
foreigners to get the overall picture of what have been happening here 
in BKK.

* * *

*A brief summary of crackdown on Red Shirt demonstration in Bangkok 
during 13-15 May 2010*

1. In brief, since 13 May, the government has launched the so called 
“Operation Ratchaprasong”. Basically, all utilities feeding the area 
(electricity, tap water and even mobile phone signal have already been 
cut or jammed). Checkpoints have been set up in the perimeter around the 
area for about five square kilometers to exclusively block any 
group/individual from entering the protesting site and even to prevent 
the transportation of food and water inside the rally site. Rubber and 
live rounds have been fired around the protesting site in three or four 
major neighborhoods up to the area of Victory monument, Din Daeng, 
Klongtoey and Silom. Close to 200 casualties including 22 deaths, all of 
them civilians including one medic officer (shot while wearing his medic 
uniform), one staff from private rescue team, and several Thai 
journalists and one Canadian journalist (from France24), have been 
reported and confirmed by the Erawan Center (part of the Ministry of 
Public Health and other concerned agencies).

2. Since 13 May, the firing by security officials has been made 
“indiscriminately” (at least as explained by CNN’s Dan River, please 
check out the video on cnn.com) against anyone, particularly the red 
shirts protesters. As a result, even staff from a medic team has been 
shot dead the night of 14 May while he was tending to some injured 
persons around Victory Monument’s area. This indiscriminate shootings 
are contradictory to the “rule of engagement” as spelled out and time 
and again reiterated by the government, particularly, Mr. Panitan 
Wattanayakorn and the spokesperson of CRES (Center for Resolution of 
Emergency Situation) that “on in cases purported for defending life of 
official or when the protesters are found to being using weapons, then 
live rounds will be fired”. Before, they have been claiming that live 
rounds are fired only “into the sky” to scare people away. But many 
pictures and the high number of casualties as a result of gun wounds 
testify differently to their claim. Yesterday’s afternoon, they even 
declared 500 meters parameter on Ratchaparop (Pratunam) just adjacent to 
the protesting site a “live firing zone” meaning anyone found to 
trespass the area will be immediately shot by live bullets (see Bangkok 
Post report attached). Later in the evening, they have revoked such 
order, perhaps due to criticisms in media.

3. All in all, special laws, particularly, the Emergency Decree on 
Government Administration in States of Emergency B.E. 2548 (2005) has 
been invoked coupled with normal Criminal Procedure Code. Almost 60 
people have been arrested invoking the Emergency Decree. About 40 of 
them have been convicted with the maximum penalties (not exceeding two 
years). Yesterday, a magistrate court in Bangkok convicted 26 protesters 
rounded up during the 13-14 May clashes in Bangkok to one year in jail 
with no suspension (reduced to six months due to confession) (please see 
Bangkok Post report). Previously, at least four people known to be 
related to the Red Shirts have been arrested and still held in custody 
for breaches of the Emergency Decree. No visits, no bail, no access to 
lawyers have been allowed.

A week ago, the Red Shirts’ legal team and their MPs have submitted a 
motion to the Constitutional Court asking the Court to review if the 
Decree is still applicable, since it was issued by the virtue of 1997 
Constitution which has been revoked since the coup in 2006. 
Unfortunately, the Court has made no ruling yet, not even to issue any 
injunction. Before, the Red Shirts lawyers have also asked the Civil 
Court to issue an injunction to stop the government from using lethal 
weapons to suppress the demonstration. The Court ruled that it is in no 
position to “interfere the exercise of administrative power” and the 
situation warrants such operation by the government.

4. Brutal suppression methods have been employed by the security 
officials. Apart from firing live rounds against the protesters and 
anyone found to stumble in and around the area they declared off-limit, 
snipers have reportedly been installed in high-rises around the 
different areas of the protesting site. It has been reported that 
several of the Red Shirts have been shot in their upper parts of the 
body by “bullets with high velocity shot from above”. Seh Daeng or Major 
General Khattiya Sawatdiphon, a renegade military general appearing to 
support the militant elements within the Red Shirts, has been shot the 
evening of 13 May and still suffers severe headshot wounds and stays 
unconscious as result of the sniping. Extensive account of the shooting 
can be found in international media, since he was shot while giving 
interviews to international press (NY Times, VOA, Wall Street Journal, 

5. The government has claimed live rounds have to be used as there are 
“around 500 terrorists hiding themselves among the protesters”. But so 
far, no solid evidence has been established to prove that the Red Shirts 
have used any war weapons or have them in possession, apart from the use 
of firework, bamboo spikes, rocks, Molotov Cocktails, and other 
improvised tools. The ratio of casualties is quite telling on this 
issue. So far, only four officials have died (all of them on 10 April), 
whereas the number of dead persons among the Red Shirts has increased to 
21 (10 April) + 22 = 43 now. Since Operation Ratchaprasong has been 
launched, none of the security officials have been shot or found to 
suffer any injury. But the government claimed that during the evening of 
13 May, at the standoff in Pratunam (Ratchaparop), about four M79 
grenades were shot into the military squads stationed there. But there 
has been no report of casualties among the officials so far. And during 
the night of 14 May, a dozen of protesters and passersby have been shot 
dead by snipers. All of the dead bodies have been found unarmed. A few 
were women, too.

The violence seems to have escalated since the protesters have been 
trying to break through the barricades set up by security officials. 
There are about 20,000 protesters left at the Ratchaprasong 
intersection, mostly those from the province. And the other protesters, 
mostly from within Bangkok, have tried to join with them though they 
have constantly been held back by fierce and indiscriminate shooting 
from the military. Now, the protesters decided to lay siege to three or 
three areas around the rally site (Din Daeng, Klong Toey, Victory 
Monument) and the standoff with the officials continue as of now.

Thai troops opened fire on protesters after a military lockdown of their 
rally site in the heart of the capital sparked fierce clashes that left 
three people dead and at least 46 wounded

*Picture: Ap*

Troops were seen shooting into Lumpini Park which, in normal times, is a 
quiet refuge and popular exercise spot in the city centre (two Red 
Shirts protesters were later found dead in the park. Their bodies were 
not recovered until three hours past since no one dared to get inside 
the park while the security officials were still firing.)

*Picture: AFP/GETTY*

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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