Opinion: The violence of April and May 2010 remains senseless ten years later

The red shirt protests of 2010 was my first real assignment. After an uneventful internship in the Middle East and various freelance jobs, stringing for multinational news organizations during the red shirt protests gave me exposure to real journalists covering a really important event for the first time. 

But while my time both in the US, London and the Middle East taught me many important things about journalism, most notably the importance of staying neutral and trying to understand both sides, it is undoubtedly harder when the news item of the day is your home town and the people are your people. 

Murky Situation

The situation also wasn’t exactly cut and dry. 

The red shirts, out on the streets and shutting down parts of Bangkok, were protesting for democracy, for getting rid of outside involvement in the electoral process. That is a commendable notion. 

But they were undoubtedly influenced by the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, the same man that I had protested as a young man in 2005 and 2006. 

Thaksin had baggage and I am not talking about just the corruption charges, there were the thousands killed under his Duterte-esque drug war, the dismantling of the checks and balance of the democratic system. Thaksin was popular among the rural population for his help in bringing about universal healthcare and empowering the grassroots, sure, but his record was not and is not clean.

Of course, on the other side you had the would-be savior of Thai democracy, Abhisit Vejjajiva. 

Etonian, Oxonian, squeaky clean image and saying all the right things – that was until he allegedly made his Faustian deal with Newin Chidchob and the military to become the prime minister. 

There was something unsettling and suspicious in the way that the constitutional court disbanded the opposition and got rid of two prime ministers to pave Abhisit’s way into power, there is something suspicious about the deal supposedly occurring in a barracks. 

I wish the Abhisit that I supported in my youth, in 2005 and 2006, had stuck to his principles and not aligned himself with the Newins and Prems and Anupongs of the world. But he didn’t. 

Also on the other side was the army, led by names still familiar to us today. Prawit Wongsuwan. Anupong Paochinda. Prayut Chan-ocha. There’s no need to waste any more space or breath on the corruption, nepotism and heartlessness of the Thai army. Their crimes for the last 50 years are apparent to all. 

Senseless 

Being among the protesters and the soldiers every day for those two fateful months made me realize one thing.

It is something I have been trying to articulate and put into words for ten years but something I still haven’t fully been able to, not even as I am writing this. 

But in doing this special report with Thai Enquirer, in going back and going over the events of April and May 2010, I think i owe it to those that I covered then and those that I am indebted to for reading now, to at least try to spell out what has been on the back of my mind. 

I covered the funeral of several red shirt protesters after the crackdown on May 19. I also covered the funeral of one soldiers. I got a chance to get to know their families, to get to know who they were in life and the hole they left behind in their families in death. 

The families of those killed, of those injured by the senseless violence of 2010, have more in common with each other than those that would lead them. 

Their leaders whether it is Prayut or Anupong or Thaksin or any of the other leaders are all living comfortably right now. They do not think about the dead, maybe once a year at the anniversary where they pay lip service, but the dead do not matter to them. The foot soldiers, the common protesters are just expendable lives to them, pawns in a power game. And the sooner the people realize this, the sooner this charade that we call Thai politics may be changed. 

To quote Yeats. 

“No likely end could bring them loss 
Or leave them happier than before…
…I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath, 
A waste of breath the years behind 
In balance with this life, this death.”

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