Thailand marks second crackdown anniversary | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 18.05.2012
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Thailand marks second crackdown anniversary

Thailand is set to mark the second anniversary of the deadly 2010 military crackdown that left over 100 people dead amid moves by the government to pass a controversial amnesty bill through parliament.

According to the Thai officials, a rally marking the second anniversary of the 2010 Thai military crackdown, which ended weeks of anti-government protests, is set to draw over 20,000 people on Saturday.

The rally comes at a time when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government is trying to move a general amnesty bill in parliament.

In a report to mark the crackdown anniversary, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says a climate of impunity prevails in Thailand with no arrests or charges against Thai soldiers and officials for the deaths of over 100 people. At least 2,000 people were wounded during the crackdown.

"A whitewash"

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is trying to pass a general amnesty bill

The violence was a culmination of over five years of confrontation between supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup, and other establishment forces of Thailand.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon and brother of Prime Minister Yingluck, had been accused of corruption and abuse of power during his premiership. He fled Thailand in 2008 and remains in exile. Many in Thailand think he is running his sister's government from abroad. In his absence, Pro-Thaksin political parties managed to win 2011 elections, with Yingluck becoming prime minister.

But Brad Adams, HRW's Asia head, said Yingluck's government had come to power with promises of justice for the victims of political violence and that it should resist pressures to engage in a whitewash.

“Current efforts to pass an amnesty law for serious abuses committed by government forces and armed protestors would be an affront to victims, who seek and deserve justice,” Adams told the media.

HRW accuses the Thai military of using “excessive and unnecessary lethal force” against the protestors. It also says the armed elements within the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), better known as Red Shirts, were also engaged in attacks.

Opposition to general amnesty

Mourners gather in Bangkok marking the first anniversary of a military crackdown against Red Shirt demonstrators

Victims' families are divided on government's amnesty plan

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva set up a Truth for Reconciliation Commission, which continues to work under Yingluck. But the Commission faces financial difficulties as well as lack of access to official records and the accused military personnel.

While the Yingluck administration has offered compensation to victims' families, many of them say they are still seeking justice.

HRW also says the government has only focused its criminal investigations on cases which implicate soldiers while ignoring those involving the UDD violence.

Katekamol Akhard, a Thai nurse, was fatally shot while attending the injured at a temple near the protest site of Rajaprasong. Nattaput, Katekamol's brother, says both he and his mother oppose plans for a general amnesty.

“Every country in the world has somewhat similar laws. When you commit a murder you must be held accountable,” Nattaput told the media.

Thai author and commentator Chris Baker says it seems that the government will press ahead with an amnesty bill through parliament. He also thinks the bill is a way for Thaksin to return to Thailand.

“I think it is rather unlikely that anyone would be held accountable. That's depressing,” Baker told DW.

Author: Ron Corben

Editor: Shamil Shams

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