The content in this page ("Search for the truth about 2010 deaths must go on" by Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

Search for the truth about 2010 deaths must go on

The fact-finding report by the People's Information Centre (PIC) detailing what happened during the red-shirt demonstrations and bloody crackdown between April 10 to May 19, 2010, is now available.

Soon, two different reports by the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will be presented to the public, in the hope Thai society can utilise them to lessen the chance of deadly clashes and impunity in the future.

Such goals cannot be achieved if no lessons are learned or prosecutions imposed on those responsible for the deaths in 2010.

The last time around, when dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators were butchered on the streets of Bangkok in 1992 in a bid to oust dictator-cum-prime-minister Suchinda Kraprayoon, no one was made responsible and the subsequent state-commissioned fact-finding report was heavily censored and never made available to the general public.

The situation may be better but more complicated this time, with three versions to be made available - but it's to be hoped that Thais will make the most out of this, by trying to read them all, and not just citing whatever parts suit their political inclination.

Given the on-going political division, each group is likely to put more weight on one over the rest. The PIC is regarded by non-reds as sympathetic to red shirts, while the NHRC is regarded by red-shirts as pro-yellow-shirt and pro-Democrat Party. As for the TRCT, although it has tried hard to present itself as impartial, its inception with its chairman appointed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, the then prime minister who presided over the crackdown, is also not really trusted by many reds.

The PIC report stressed that almost 30 per cent of the 94 fatalities (they claim three "extra" deaths) died from bullet wounds to the head and another 22 per cent died from gunshots to their chests. This makes the persistent claim by the Abhisit administration that some demonstrators were shot to deter them from attacking sound hollow if not deceitful.

The report also highlighted that none of the demonstrators killed had traces of gunpowder on their hands, which again contradicts the Abhisit government claims that some of the demonstrators used lethal weapons.

The PIC report cited an article by a senior military strategist in the Army journal Senathipat [] claiming the operation was a "success" because "a full-scale urban warfare operation" was launched from May 14, 2010 onward.

The report also questions why during that period of May 14 to 19, only two soldiers were killed, if demonstrators were really heavily armed, with one officer's death reported by local news media as resulting from "friendly fire".

Now we must wait to see how the other two reports differ from the PIC's and analyse them all in comparison, with the aim of both trying to come up with a consensus on what really happened in 2010 and hopefully using the information to bring those responsible for the deaths on both sides to justice.

Thai society cannot avoid trying to find out the truth about the incidents of April-May 2010 if it earnestly wants to prevent or at least mitigate the chance of impunity occurring again. Let the October 6, 1976 massacre of leftist students by rightwing ultra-royalists and the May 1992 bloody massacre be lessons of collective failure.

Without truth, there can neither be justice nor meaningful lessons learned. With no accountability, the culture of impunity will persist.

For those who say "Let us forget and forgive", I say, we do not even have the truth and a consensus on what happened. So how can we forget and forgive what that we don't really know?

A society that fails to learn the bitter truth about itself and doesn't keep proper record of its history will remain in a muddle about itself into the future - only to repeat its bitter mistakes again and again.