April 10, 2010: All culprits must be made accountableSubmitted by prachatai on Fri, 13/04/2012 - 03:01
Two years on from the fateful events of April 10, 2010, Thais of various political persuasions still hold starkly different versions of history and no one has been held responsible for the deaths.
On that day, two dozen people from both sides were killed when Army troops were dispatched to disperse red-shirt protesters along Rajdamnoen Avenue and clashed with both red shirts and the so-called "mysterious-and-armed men in black".
To the red shirts, it was a day of infamy for the then-Abhisit Vejjajiva administration and the Army, as they resorted to the use of armed soldiers to disperse the crowd in a way that goes against the international norm of using riot police to achieve such an objective.
To the yellow shirts, as well as the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra multicolour shirts, the deployment of the Army was justified as they were eventually confronted with the men in black that killed some of the soldiers, including an Army colonel.
Having gauged sentiment on Twitter on April 10, I discover that hatred runs so deep on both sides that my Twitter account was flooded with hate messages.
While I personally think it's absolutely wrong and against the international norm for the Abhisit administration to have dispatched Army troops and war weapons to disperse largely unarmed protesters, red shirts will also have to answer about whom the men in black actually were and the use of M-79 explosives on that fateful night, and during the days and weeks that followed.
Nevertheless, I think the prime responsibility lies with Abhisit, as any democratic government should first resort to the use of riot police, tear gas, water cannon and batons until it's completely self-evident that police alone cannot handle the crowd. Soldiers and war weapons are definitely not for crowd control in a democratic society - period.
What's more, today, two years later, we don't even know who gave the order to have soldiers disastrously handle crowd control in such a deadly manner. Was it Abhisit or someone else? Who were the men in black, and why has not a single one of them been arrested over the past two years? And what about those who used M-79 explosives?
While having a complete version of history is fine and even healthy in any democratic society, the same cannot be said about the lack of accountability from both sides.
Besides, both sides seem unable to look beyond their self-righteous perspectives, and are unable or unwilling to forgive.
Perhaps it will take a whole new generation to replace us in order for the wounds to be healed and to embrace more democratic norms, such as armed soldiers not being used for a coup or crowd dispersal, or that 'peaceful' protesters are not supposed to use deadly weapons against security officers.
But is it really realistic merely to wait for our generation to die out in the hope that we are replaced by younger ones whose hearts are not filled with hatred, but with open-mindedness and compassion? I fear that if we don't try to push harder and learn the lessons from the recent past, future generations will grow up accepting the brutal past of our generation as something normal, if not acceptable.
We cannot, therefore, simply run away and abdicate our responsibility to set the record straight. Make the culprits on all sides accountable, for failing to do so would be tantamount to tacitly telling the next generations that it's okay to settle things violently without accountability and due regard to the rule of law.
Though our generation seems trapped in the cycle of mutual hatred, it would be most irresponsible for us to simply not try to sort things out and ensure some lessons are learnt, no matter how messy, complicated and ugly it all may be.