May 19th remembered

The Red Shirts, also known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), gathered on May 19th at Ratchaprasong intersection from the early morning to late at night to commemorate the third anniversary of the 2010 military crackdown.

 
 
'I don't know. I'm sick.'
 
Most Red Shirts from other provinces came in the morning, securing different spots at the rally site. In addition to the main stage at the centre of Ratchaprasong intersection, there were at least three more stages: a stage by the January 29 Front – Free Political Prisoners - located near BTS Ratchadamri station, which also showcased an exhibition of photos by Fabio Polenghi, the Italian photojournalist who died during the military crackdown; the Red Shirts Radio Station for Democracy stage on Ratchadamri Road; and a stage near Wat Pathumwanaram by relatives of the victims, led by Nurse Kade’s mother Phayao Akhad.
 

Elisabetta Polenghi
 
 
Elisabetta Polenghi, the younger sister of Fabio Polenghi, also appeared at the January 29 Front stage. She selected photos from her brother’s collection for an exhibition called “The last pictures, Bangkok 2553”.  These showed the red shirt rallies and were taken before Fabio was killed near the Sarasin intersection on May 19th, 2010. 
 
After a self-introduction, she gave a short speech expressing her thanks to the Red Shirts and her delight in the day’s activity. She expressed regret that her brother, a photographer who wanted through photography to help those who suffered, had to end his life this way. 
 
Elisabetta said she did not wish for those who killed her brother to be punished or executed, but just wanted the truth to be revealed. She also said the trial process was faster than she had expected.
 
Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Thammasat University history lecturer, then spoke briefly. He said it was sorrowful to see how middle class people in Bangkok still take satisfaction from the loss of the red shirts, even though the incident was three years ago. 
 

Somsak Jeamteerasakul
 
He said the amnesty law creates loopholes that allow state officials to get away with violence and murder. 
 
“I want society to realize that what happened three years ago was absolutely wrong.” Somsak said. “The military used weapons against the people and was able to do so with impunity.” 
 
On the main stage, Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer representing the UDD, explained why the Red Shirts should not threaten Abhisit Vejjajiva or Suthep Thaugsuban as they have the same right to speak as everyone else. 
 

Robert Amsterdam
 
He added that the red shirts have the duty to make the world understand that the Democrat Party did not come to power by legitimate means and an election, since they could not win.  Amsterdam announced that they should call the Democrats the military regime party because they do not have many supporters and attempt to deprive the rights and liberties of the people. The duty of the Red Shirts is to reveal the real behaviour of the Democrats, he said. 
 
Amsterdam said that during his talks in different countries, he would expose the truth that because of their behaviour, the Democrats do not deserve to be in the Liberal International, an international political federation of liberal parties. He would call for their expulsion from that federation, he said. 
 
He called for the red shirts to demand the release of political prisoners and those who were jailed on Article 112 charges, to regain the national reputation for freedom. He also called for reforms in prison conditions. 
 
Amsterdam told the red shirt demonstrators that he would visit the red shirts convicted of arson in 2010 in the northeast provinces and invited the red shirts to do the same. 
 
Meanwhile at the stage near Wat Pathumwanaram, relatives of the victims of the 2010 crackdown read out a statement calling for the government to speed up the investigations of cases still being processed by the DSI.  They also called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to sign and ratify the treaty of the International Criminal Court, and expressed support for the draft amnesty bill of Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema, which would grant an amnesty to protestors from all sides but exclude movement leaders and state officials. 
 
The National Human Rights Commission told Prachatai last month that it is now finalizing the fact-finding report on the April-May 2010 political violence, and will publish it in April, after a number of delays. 
 
Translated by Takato Mitsunaga