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Opinion article from the Bangkok Post – 20/05/2010

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This is going to be a long note, but I want my overseas friends to understand what has been happening here in Thailand.

I would like to present a case against the international media’s reporting on the situation in Thailand, particularly Bangkok.

Most of you will likely will be seeing only scenes of soldiers shooting or injured people being carried away on international TV channels for 30 seconds, but never get to know the background.

What if these protesters were in New York, Singapore, Tokyo or London?

The truth is, the Thai government has been too accommodating by withholding the use of force since the rally started two months ago (with the exception of the April 10 event, when the soldiers were ordered to move in without live ammunition and subsequently got slaughtered by unknown gunmen shooting from among the red shirt protesters).

The majority of us support the government in dealing with the terrorists hidden amongst the protesters. It held talks with the rally leaders and offered peace solutions to them 10 days ago.

The prime minister publicly urged the protesters to disperse for fear of violence created by the terrorists. But the plan wasn’t accepted.

So, it came time to block food and water supplies from entering the centre of the protest.

If the demonstrators were peaceful, they wouldn’t rush out to throw rocks, firecrackers and even bombs at the soldiers’ barricades — thus causing the soldiers to defend themselves by firing rubber bullets and live rounds.

It has been very frustrating for the law abiding citizens of Bangkok — we even voiced our dissatisfaction at the government for its failure to uphold the laws.

The situation was like Bangkok was being held for ransom. A lot of businesses got affected because it’s happening right in the middle of the major commercial area.

Again, think what your government would do if there were a large group of protesters blocking all traffic at Orchard Road in Singapore; Times Square in New York City; Ginza in Tokyo; or Knightsbridge in London. For two months.

They set up barricades to search through personal belongings of everyone travelling through the area.

Also think what your government would do if those protesters invaded a nearby hospital, causing doctors and nurses to evacuate patients — some of whom were newborn babies in incubators and those in ICU—to other hospitals.

And most important of all, think what would your government do if the protesters were found to have a large stockpile of M79 grenades, M16 and AK47 assault rifles.

Do you think your government would be as tolerant as the Thai government has till now been?

Reungvit Nandhabiwat is the owner of a business in Bangkok.

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The Thai government is getting a lot of flack for its crackdown of the Red demonstrations this week. Although I admit their management of the situation leaves something to be desired, I don’t think it’s fair to blame only the government and military for the violence that has troubled Thailand lately. Foreign agencies were quick to call for them to check their use of force against the demonstrators. And yet, why didn’t the international community call for the UDD to check its militant behavior – and its lack of consideration for the livelihoods of other citizens?

To demonstrate, here’s a clip of Arisman Pongruangrong, one of the hardline Red leaders, just days before the crackdown. I’ve only translated the first 54 seconds of his speech, but it should be plentifully instructive:

“Brothers and sisters, let’s plan for next time. If we know that they [the soldiers] are coming to get us, we don’t need to prepare anything much. Each of you come with a glass bottle and fill it up with gasoline here. Measure out 75 cc .to one liter. If one million of us come to Bangkok and there are one million liters of gasoline, I guarantee that Bangkok will be a sea of flame! (Applause.) The fighting methods of the Red Shirts are that simple – may the soldiers be aware! Tell the soldiers, those dogs, the servants of the aristocracy: if they injure a Red Shirt, if they shed a single drop of blood, Bangkok will immediately become a sea of flame! (Applause.)”

This maniac threatened to burn Bangkok, home to nine million of his fellow citizens, with all its cultural and historical assets, into a sea of flame?? How far does freedom of speech extend? Could he give a similar speech in the United States under the same circumstances and not be charged with incitement to riot?

The worst part is that Arisman’s followers took his words to heart. The city, as well as certain provincial capitals, are in shambles – and the fault lies squarely with those renegades who followed Arisman’s incitements.

So let’s not point the finger of blame in one direction.

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