The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand report on the 2010 Red Shirt protest deaths released this week laid blame on all sides (as expected) and has already been dismissed (as expected) by all sides.
Its results are likely close to the truth–the Red Shirts did field a force of “men in black” (as they themselves claimed at the time) that used weapons to attack the government in the name of their Thai-style “dissatisfaction.” The military used snipers and live gunfire to clear the protest area and shoot people as they have done so many times in the past during politically turbulent times in Thailand.
The meaning of political violence in the Thai context is that a government that uses force against its people looses legitimacy, steps down, and then all are pardoned. This was the overall game plan of the Red Shirt protests in Bangkok and why, even after the 2009 protests, when none were killed, Thaksin and other Red Shirt leaders still insisted scores must have died. It was to trigger the sequence of events that would once again lead to a pardon.
That the Democrat-led government was able to hang on after the bloody events of 2010 broke a precedent. Their obstinacy was also fueled by the idea that no disgruntled politician should be allowed to use a rural “mob” (as the Thais call it) to push his way back into power. Bringing rural people to Bangkok to force political change was another longstanding Thai political fear that was realized in both 2009 and 2010.
So these reports that lay blame bring the situation no closer to resolution. The open airing of the truth is not a cathartic moment in the Thai context as it would be in the West. There will still be a reckoning and both sides are preparing themselves for more tricks and more shocks moves coming up.
International news media commenting on the final report from The Truth for Reconciliation Commission [thanks to Tom for pointing these out]:
New York Times: Truth Panel in Thailand Says Conflicts Are Festering
…Sunai Phasuk, a researcher in Thailand with Human Rights Watch, praised the commission’s report as balanced and relying on “neutral evidence and forensic science. “This is the first report in modern Thai political history that investigates violence from all sides,” he said on Thai television…
Wall Street Journal: Thailand’s Lessons From Conflict – Two years on, no one has been held to account for the deadly violence in Bangkok
…At the report’s launch, Red Shirt activists let loose a barrage of questions that were left unanswered at the close of the event. Later, their representatives rejected all the recommendations, saying that the report is biased and doesn’t offer any redress for the killings.
Weng Tojirakarn, a red-shirt leader who is also an MP with the governing Pheu Thai Party, demanded the TRCT provide evidence to support its conclusion that armed “men in black” were present at Bangkok rallies and enjoyed support from his red-shirt group…
Here is an article from international journalists who actually followed the red shirts’ “men in black” around while they were fighting the military: Unmasked: Thailand’s men in black
The findings of The Truth for Reconciliation Commission broadly match the findings of Human Rights Watch: Descent into Chaos – Thailand’s 2010 Red Shirt Protests and the Government Crackdown