On the morning of April 10, 2010, troops deployed in Bangkok under the state of emergency advanced their positions to tighten security around the rally sites of the red-shirt protesters, who were demonstrating in several spots including the Ratchaprasong
Violence flared. Troops began the crackdown by firing teargas against protesters. Clashes erupted on all sides, and the violence peaked that night, with war weapons being used by both sides, causing both to sustain casualties. Several troops were also killed by grenades.
After the dust settled, witnesses and evidence – including photos and video clips – emerged. The evidence confirmed that both sides used war weapons. Most importantly of all, video clips showed that there were “men in black” standing among the red-shirt demonstrators, who cheered when the men fired back at the troops.
During the rallies, the red-shirt leaders tried to distance themselves from the men in black, and even denied that they existed. But in a slip of the tongue, several red-shirt leaders thanked the men in black for coming out to help the demonstrators. In several instances, red-shirt leaders even praised the men in black as heroes.
Of course, the other side cursed the red-shirt leaders, saying they had tacitly admitted that they were on the same side as the men in black. The red-shirt leaders, the other side said, supported violence by these men, who were described as “terrorists”. The red-shirt rallies were therefore not peaceful as claimed by the group’s leaders, the red-shirts’ opponents said.
Nearly four years later, a similar incident happened on February 1, on the eve of the election. Luangpu Buddha Issara led protesters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to block the Lak Si district office to prevent the delivery of ballots and ballot boxes. Then, a group of red-shirt protesters led by Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kotchathammakhun, rushed to confront the PDRC demonstrators.
A clash occurred at the Lak Si intersection. The PDRC claimed that Wutthipong’s side fired at the PDRC demonstrators first. The two sides then exchanged gunfire and the firing stopped at dusk.
After the dust settled, witnesses and evidence emerged, including photos and video clips. Evidence showed that PDRC protesters carried and fired pistols and revolvers against the other side. There were also video clips that showed a man in black firing an assault rifle, which was partially concealed with a fertiliser bag, at the red shirts.
The photos and video clips were disseminated worldwide, proving that the PDRC rallies were not peaceful as claimed. The use of guns was also denounced by the international community.
Since the evidence was clear, all eyes turned to PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban for an explanation. As expected, Suthep claimed that the men in black did not belong to the PDRC. But what was unexpected was that Suthep thanked the men in black for coming out to defend the people by firing against the other side.
His statement was greeted with cheers from the protesters, who praised the men in black – even though these same people had condemned the men in black in 2010.
Many of them even called for armed demonstrations and expressed satisfaction that their side had used violence. They acted as if they had forgotten that they once cursed the use of violence by red shirts.
And the red shirts turned to curse the men in black as if they had forgotten that they once admired such figures.
What happened shows that neither side cares about peace and adherence to non-violence in demonstrations. They simply sought justification for their own actions, although their deeds were entirely unacceptable.