Asia Thai Red Shirts banned from commemorating 2010 killings

Thai Red Shirts banned from commemorating 2010 killings

Families of those who were killed in the 2010 red-shirt riots hold photos of their loved ones. More than 10,000 supporters of the movement converged at the Ratchaprasong intersection yesterday to commemorate the third anniversary of crackdown
File-Families of those who were killed in the 2010 red-shirt riots hold photos of their loved ones. More than 10,000 supporters of the movement converged at the Ratchaprasong  to commemorate the anniversary of crackdown

(AA) – The Thai junta has banned all religious ceremonies in honor of Red Shirt protesters who died in a clash with the military that killed 26 people five years ago, according to local media Friday.

Earlier plans by Red Shirts — supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, overthrown in a 2006 coup — to gather Friday at the site of the violence in Khok Wua junction had been prohibited on the grounds that it could “stir up political conflicts.”

The movement’s leaders had then decided to honor the dead through merit-making ceremonies, consisting of offering alms to monks and listening to Buddhist prayers, at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan banned the religious rite Wednesday, saying it could “turn into a contentious issue.”

A low-key merit-making ceremony, to be held with ten monks and without the presence of Red Shirt leaders, was then planned in a Bangkok suburb — only for the junta to send soldiers to the designated temple Thursday afternoon, asking that the abbot not allow the ceremony.

Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan wrote on his Facebook page Thursday night that security forces would not permit Friday’s religious gathering to proceed.

“As a result, the merit-making and commemoration of the deaths on April 10, 2010 had to be scrapped entirely,” the Bangkok Post quoted his post as saying.

After the posting, junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree told the Post that they were “not prohibiting people from making merit, but wanted to prohibit the Red Shirts from organizing a public gathering.”

The families of those killed in the clash have reacted with dismay.

Sunanta Prechawet, who lost her sister in the violence, told the newspaper that it was “absurd that even merit-making and meeting friends who lost their loved ones are banned now.”

Despite the bans on Red Shirt commemorations, the widow of a military officer killed in the clash held a religious ceremony with friends and family at Wat Boworn Nivet, a major temple in the capital.

“It’s just annual merit-making and the authorities should understand our intentions,” Nicha Hiranburana Thuwatham said.

Colonel Romklao Thuwatham, promoted to general after his death, was among five soldiers killed five years ago when a group of black-clad men used automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades to push back the military. Twenty civilians and a non-Thai reporter also lost their lives in the violence in Bangkok’s historic district.

Between February and May 2010, the Red Shirts had demonstrated to call for early elections before the protest was crushed by the army on May 19 with the loss of more than 90 lives.

This year, remembrance of the 2010 protests comes at a time of heightened tension between Thaksin supporters and the regime.

Last week, a group of Red Shirt leaders met officials from the Department of Special Investigations, a police unit that deals with politically sensitive issues, to ensure the probe into the violence of five years ago would continue “in a transparent and fair manner,” Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua said.

The police team handling the case had been replaced a few days before the meeting.

Last Friday, the anti-corruption commission announced that Gen. Anupong Paochinda, who was army chief during the 2010 crackdown and is currently deputy prime minister and interior minister, would be summoned as a witness in a case against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban.

The pair has been charged with abuse of power for ordering the military crackdown.

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