On August 30, 2017, Phayao Akhard wears the bloody nurses gown worn by her daughter, nurse Kamolkate “Kate” Akhard, when she was killed by Thai Special Forces soldiers while tending wounded persons at the front of Wat Pathum temple on May 19, 2010 (Photo from Human Rights Watch)
Eight years ago my colleagues and I watched as the streets of Bangkok were covered with blood in one of Thailand’s most violent political confrontations. Yet there is still no justice for the at least 98 people killed and more than 2,000 injured between April and May 2010 – despite compelling evidence that the military was behind most of these abuses.
At the time, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – also known as the Red Shirts – held a mass protest against the government of then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Human Rights Watch also documented how some of the Red Shirts, including armed militants, committed deadly attacks on soldiers, police, and civilians. Some protest leaders incited violence with inflammatory speeches, urging their supporters to carry out arson attacks and looting.
Thailand is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious human rights violations.
No one should be above the law, whatever their political affiliation or official position. But sadly, as time goes by, opportunities for Thailand to demonstrate impartial justice have been fading further and further.
It is outrageous that impunity for state-sponsored violence remains the standard operating policy of the Thai military. This simply encourages Thailand’s policymakers and soldiers to believe that they can get away with murder. It also remains a major impediment to reconciliation between victims and supporters of the Red Shirts, a group that does not trust the army and political establishment. Without justice, this is unlikely to change.