Sunday was the biggest pro-democracy protest in Thailand so far in 2021 but it was also the most violent.
The protest was called for by the student-led pro-Marxist group, Free Youth. The group has, in recent weeks, continued its use of the hammer and sickle symbol and pushed a Russian revolutionary funeral march song called “You Fell Victim” in its protests.
While the majority of people who turned out to support the protest were peaceful and marching for democracy, the Free Youth leaders are different.
Free Youth held a vote online about Sunday’s protest and chose to march to a nearby military camp which also serves as the prime minister’s residence.
Ahead of the protest, the group told their supporters to wear face mask and running shoes but no jewelry, necklace or contact lens and to cover their face with disguises.
They also recommended protestors to bring security helmet, gas mask, thick gloves, first aid kit and other protest equipment.
These actions did not necessarily scream peaceful protest.
The Thai protestors’ main demand on Sunday was for Prayut to step down as premier and for his government to release four detained protest leaders.
They were joined in their march by Burmese protestors who were there to call attention to the violent crackdown in Myanmar which killed at least 18 people on the same day as the protest.
The protest started off peacefully at the monument but turned violent once the protestors reached the army base.
Police decided to surround the students on both sides and the students responded by throwing stones and bottles at police.
Many people were injured while 22 protestors were arrested and one police officer died of a heart attack.
But I will not pass all the blame on Free Youth as the police had a fair share in provoking the protestors and prolonging the violence. There was no reason to surround the students. By the same token there was no need to hurl missiles at the police.
In the battle for public opinion, though, there is only one winner and that is not the students.
Afterall, photos and videos of confrontations will only support the government and police claims that the pro-democracy protestors are violent when the majority of them are not.
But the truth is, the police were heavy-handed in their approach. They did not stop the traffic in the area, which contributed to the chaos, and they were violently beating up unarmed protestors while they were making arrest, again.
There is also no excuse for police to be throwing rocks back at protesters, disregarding the cars and bystanders inside them. Many of the officers were also shooting rubber bullets in close range which could lead to serious injury or the loss of life.
It is important to note that the majority of the protestors, even when they were confronting the police, were peaceful but there are also a group of protestors out there that are hell-bent on causing violence.
In the end, everybody loses.
Both peaceful and non-peaceful protestors were injured and many were arrested. The peaceful image that Ratsadon was trying to paint is now smeared with violence that was cooked up by Free Youth.
The police lost one of their officers because they refused to stay put while putting everyone in harms way by not blocking the road or provide proper warning before conducting operations.
The damage was done is to the reputation of the pro-democracy movement in Thailand.
Whatever Free Youth wanted to achieved on Sunday by marching to the army base of the King’s closet guard is anyone guess. They failed.
If the pro-democracy protestors are going to continue to go down the road of violence, more blood will be shed and more lives will be loss along the way and nothing will be changed.