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CHIANG MAI – Red shirts met in front of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) headquarters in Chiang Mai’s Old City area on Saturday morning to remember the more than 90 people who died two years ago in protests against the government in Bangkok.
More than 90 people died in the May 2010 clashes between the military and Red Shirt protestors in the central Ratchaprasong area of Thailand’s capital, and more than 2000 were injured. No soldier or military official has yet been charged or arrested for the deaths, although more than 50 UDD members remain in jail.
The rally of approximately one thousand people drove around Chiang Mai in songthaews and motor bikes, dressed in red shirts and bandanas, and waving typically-colored flags, with images of former prime-minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, current prime-minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Leaders made speeches through loudspeakers from the trucks.
The rally stopped in front of the Democrat Party office, on Canal Road, where they burnt flowers in protest and in memory of the dead protestors, before continuing towards the central Tha Pae Gate, where Red Shirts came together, waving flags and dancing to music played by the trucks.
“We are here because of the people who were killed two years ago”, said Mr. Anant Dainana, who was sitting on his motor-bike watching from the shade, wearing red. The lady beside him made gestures simulating snipers, to explain. “We want democracy”, she said.
Red shirts supporters expressed their support for Thaksin and their dislike for Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime-minister at the time of the crackdown.
“We have no arms”, said one man proudly, showing his bare fists, “but if the military comes, we will fight them”, he said jokingly, but expressing the conviction of those present. Red-Shirts carried banners and sang while the public watched and took pictures.
The UDD supporters drove around Chiang Mai, through Chinatown, slightly contributing to traffic and drawing attention from the locals and tourists, in a mostly peaceful demonstration.
Finally, the rally ended back at the headquarters, a building with a large door carved with images of crowds cheering to Thaksin giving a speech. Demonstrators gathered for lunch served by the party members, while some leaders made their pronouncements. The atmosphere was friendly and light-hearted, were it not for the posters showing pictures of the violence and the protestors died in 2010. The demand is for justice.
“People want to know what happened in 2010. They want to know what is going on”, said a Law professor from Chiang Mai Rajabhat University.
The slow investigations, and the absence of any charges against the military seems to have become a frustration to the Red Shirts, and they are still indignant.
Thai Government has offered financial compensation for the family of the victims
Compensations have been generally welcomed, and reparations of 7,5 million baht, according to another professor who was at the rally, is being offered to the family of each of the victims of the May 2010 crackdown. An installment of 3 million baht has already been paid for each family, according to him.
The current government has also proposed a bill in parliament that would grant amnesty to all political crimes committed in the past six years.
“They want people to keep quiet. We don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. There is a lot of power behind what is happening”, said the professor.
Some UDD supporters are clearly still thoroughly emotional about the political issues in the country. “The last government (Abhisit’s) was bullshit”, said one lady as she climbed onto her truck to leave.
“They did not care for the poor people. Only the rich people.” She explained they are now content with Yingluck’s government, as it is “looking at the poor people.”
Two years after the crackdown by the Thai military on Red Shirt protestors, the government has not arrested or charged any soldier or official for the deaths and injuries committed, Human Rights Watch said this Tuesday during a press conference. The organization called for the withdrawal of an amnesty bill submitted to Parliament that would protect those involved in the 2010 abuses from prosecution.
“The military should not be above the law. The government needs to prosecute all those responsible for crimes, whatever their political affiliation or official position, to provide justice for the victims and end the cycle of violence and impunity”,
said Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch Brad Adams. He criticized the government for failing to hold military personnel accountable for the violent incidents that made the Thai and worldwide headlines after mass protests from March to May 2010.