“Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
My 16th birthday landed on the day the protests officially began. But to be completely honest, I don’t remember much at all. I was young and mostly removed from it all.
There are, however, three singular events I still remember vividly.
An army officer, Seh Daeng, assassinated — his bloodied face frantically carried away through the crowd. One of the protesters – a tall, lanky man in red standing with a Thai flag — shot through the head. Bangkok city up in flames, with the perpetrators screaming and swearing, “Burn it! Burn it all down!”.
I still remember the sounds of gunshots, the tragedy, the blood, the chaos.
What transpired ten years ago was one of the most significant political upheavals in Thailand’s history and probably my life.
It was a part of Thailand’s great divide – a kingdom separated and deeply polarized between two glaring, opposing colors. Suddenly and somewhat irreversibly, we were identifying potential enemies by simply asking whether they preferred red or yellow.
Thinking about it now, I can still taste the hate and animosity that was in the air for years.
Who are the Good Guys?
As if manifested from an ancient Manichaean manuscript, Thailand’s narrative was yet again struck in the fight between light and dark, good and evil. But it was an exhausting and uncompromising one. Both sides were unwilling to back down and both assumed that they were the good guys.
I, too, thought that I was sure who the good guys were.
Over the years, as I watched the political landscape in my country unfold, more questions compounded. I couldn’t help but wonder – if what was reported was true, and what was decided upon was right, then why are there so many people still hurting?
Human Rights Watch has evidence of the military’s use of unnecessary and excessive force on innocent civilians. Soldiers in uniforms were reportedly shooting unarmed protesters, medics, reporters, and bystanders, sometimes even in front of media cameras. At the same time, they also documented Red Shirts, including armed militants, attacking soldiers, police, and civilians.
Protest leaders could be heard inciting violence with hate speech and derogatory language, urging protesters to burn and destroy the country.
You can’t be good if you refuse to confront the truth
It is sad that even in the decade that followed, no successive governments gave the event much heed. It became another event in history that Thailand wants to erase and forget. Maybe that’s why history keeps repeating itself.
Over 90 lives were lost and no one has been held accountable.
The truth is there is no truth in Thailand because justice apparently only belongs to the powerful.