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Bangkok, May 2010 Bangkok, May 2010
Perspectives on a Divided Thailand

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4 - Truth and Justice When Fear and Repression Remain: An Open Letter to Dr Kanit Na Nakorn, 16 July 2010

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2015

Tyrell Haberkorn
Affiliation:
Australian National University
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Summary

How to heal a country that has been traumatized by repression if the fear to speak out is still omnipresent everywhere? And how do you reach the truth if lying has become a habit? How do we keep the past alive without becoming its prisoner? How do we forget it without risking its repetition in the future? Is it legitimate to sacrifice the truth to ensure peace? And what are the consequences of suppressing that past and the truth it is whispering or howling to us? Are people free to search for justice and equality if the threat of a military intervention haunts them? And given these circumstances, can violence be avoided?

— Ariel Dorfman, Afterword, Death and the Maiden

The events, failed attempts at mediation between the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the red-shirted members of the National United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and the violence in which they culminated during April and May 2010 have now become well known globally. The UDD began demonstrating in the Ratchaprasong area of central Bangkok in March, calling for the dissolution of Thailand's parliament and for new elections. It viewed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's leadership as illegitimate and his actions as a continuation of the double standards in Thai politics, in which certain groups of people are held to account for their transgressions and others not.

The UDD presence in Ratchaprasong provoked anger among some sectors of the government and some Bangkok residents, and on 7 April 2010 Prime Minister Abhisit put the Emergency Decree in place in Bangkok and in other provinces with a strong UDD presence. The Emergency Decree provides for wide powers of censorship, arrest, and detention, including the use of violence by state actors when deemed necessary to carry out their duties. In this case, the Emergency Decree signalled the possibility of violent state repression, a possibility that came to fruition.

Once the Emergency Decree was in place, the UDD protests became technically illegal, as gatherings of more than five people were not allowed, and any actions taken by state forces to end the protest became technically legal. On 10 April, the Thai Army launched attacks against UDD protestors using tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition.

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Bangkok, May 2010
Perspectives on a Divided Thailand
, pp. 42 - 54
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2012

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