Are Tak Bai VCDs banned?

The Tak Bai VCDs - December 11, 2004

More on Troubles in the South & Nationalism & Right-wing Politics had an opportunity to review the contents of two of the five VCDs that have been circulating in the South. These VCDs contain the raw video of the Tak Bai event along with speeches by Malaysian lawmakers and crude slideshows created from the video footage.

Anyone familiar with the videos commemorating the protests of 1973, 1976 and 1992 will find the Tak Bai footage relatively mild. There are some instances of random kicking of protesters as they are dragged into custody, but nothing more shocking. Had no one died as the prisoners were being transported, the incident might have been seen as the first successful crowd control conducted by the army.

It is easy to see why the government might want to suppress the footage, not only from people in the South, but from people in other parts of the country. Unlike prior pro-democracy videos from 1973, 1976 and 1992 that focus on brutality and the 'people's struggle,' the common thread in the first VCD is Prime Minister Thaksin--in the banners that protesters wave asking him to step down to the fiery Malaysian speeches where he is mentioned again and again. There are possibly other operational security reasons why they might not want the footage distributed as well, but in terms of the images themselves, there is nothing particularly controversial or surprising.

"PAS speeches" VCD

This is clearly prepared as a propaganda vehicle. Here is what the video contains:

1. Raw Thai TV footage that ends with interviews with the people in charge. This is the same footage shown on local and international TV and framegrabs of it were printed in local papers (16 min 20 sec).

The video starts from inside the police compound. Protesters get rowdy and push forward, throwing sticks at the police. Water canons open fire as a few protesters are pulled through police lines and kicked. Tear gas is dispensed, but unfortunately the wind is blowing back towards the police station and the police and army are forced back instead.
Once the police and army retreat into the station, firing starts. The video appears to capture what might be someone inside the police shooting into the crowd (it is not clear in which direction he is holding his gun), but all the soldiers shout at him and the man appears to stop shooting. Afterwards a soldier holding his head as if he is hurt is led from the scene. Throughout the video, several other military people can be seen taking videos with small cameras.
Windows are broken inside the police station which seems to indicate that the police station received fire from the direction of the crowd. The men retreat to behind the police station for awhile before charging out to the front gates again as it seems the protesters have surrendered. A handful of people are dragged back into the police compound being kicked along the way.
Finally the camera moves out in front of the police building as protesters laying on the ground are tied up and women and children are segregated. All the while there is sporadic gunfire in the distance. Protesters begin to be put in trucks. Press conference with military spokesman.

2. Angry speech in Malaysian by someone at a podium with "Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS)" on the front (33 min 22 sec)

3. Another angry speech in Malaysian at the same podium (23 min 28 sec). Thaksin is mentioned often. The end of the speech is illustrated by a series of slides of the protest and aftermath with English-language banners from overseas protests. This appears to be an attempt to weave this event into the worldwide Islamic struggle. The slideshow has a prominent bar across the bottom that reads "Made as an evaluation of ProShow Gold."

"Taxi stand footage" VCD

1. The same Thai TV footage footage as the first VCD, but without the interviews and edited slightly to highlight the more action-filled parts (10 min 27 sec).

2. A grainy video taken outside the police station that shows some random beating of protesters that are being forced to crawl back into the police compound. It appears to be taken with a very long lens, perhaps from a motorcycle taxi stand, and some locals are chatting in the Yala dialect as they watch the prisoners being taken into custody.
Then there is footage from three days later at the funeral. A huge mass grave prepared for the victims. Villagers line up the bodies wrapped in green shrouds in the pit. People hold their noses, photographers snap photos, and a female farang reporter counts up the bodies. (19 min 37 sec)

EC issues warning on doctored videos - The Nation, December 14, 2004
[As correctly predicted last week in our review of the Tak Bai videos, the reasons for showing it or not showing them have more to do with local politics and the upcoming elections than with exacerbating problems in the south.]
...Army commander-in-chief General Chaisit Shinawatra said the footage was doctored to show security forces torturing people. The same doctored video footage had been shown in other countries...
Democrat Party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon said on Sunday party leader Banyat Bantadtan had asked Thanin to stop showing the VCD. Ong-art said the footage was real, unedited and not doctored...
The footage was what Thai television stations had recorded at the scene of the Tak Bai clashes but were afraid to broadcast, Chuan Leekpai, the Democrat Party’s chief adviser, said.
He urged people to separate national security from government security. “National security occurs when all sides speak the truth. The government should accept what really happened there,” he said.

A tale of two newspapers: PM unhappy - December 12, 2004
The Bangkok Post article has the Democrats on the defense for showing the Tak Bai video. The Nation turns it around and has the PM under fire.
PM unhappy Tak Bai VCDs being shown - Bangkok Post, December 12, 2004
The Democrat party should consider the fragility of the situation in the deep South while distributing video CDs on the Oct 25 Tak Bai incident in its political campaigns, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday.
"I think many Democrat members are not happy about this. The way the the incident is being presented to the public on the VCDs is horrible. It could incite disunity among the people in the country. Saying that the incident was intended to destroy the Muslim people is too much," he said...

PM rapped for ban on Tak Bai footage - The Nation, December 12, 2004
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s move to ban VCDs showing soldiers and police attacking unarmed demonstrators at Tak Bai was blasted yesterday by leading Democrat Party members and called into question by the Law Society of Thailand over its legality.
MP Alongkorn Pollabutr dared Thaksin to take legal action against fellow Democrat MP Thanin Jaisamut, who has admitted screening the video at a public function but denies suggestions from the government that he had tampered with it and was using it to stir unrest...

The Tak Bai VCD - December 10, 2004

Funds channelled to Muslim rebels in Thailand: report - AFP, December 9, 2004
A government lawmaker has alleged that money from a Muslim welfare organisation in Malaysia has been channelled to a rebel group in southern Thailand, a report said today...

PM orders investigation into Tak Bai VCD - TNA, December 9, 2004
...Deputy Interior Minister Sutham Saengpratoom told TNA that evidence was being gathered, and that the interior minister would decide later whether to charge the film’s producer.
The VCD documentary has been sold widely sold in Thailand’s southern region.
Mr. Sutham said he was reported that the producer was a Malaysian who was believed to receive support from a political party to make the documentary, aimed at discrediting the government...
The government and the office of Chularajamontri, the supreme spiritual leader of Thailand’s Muslims plan to issue their own VCD documentary to counter the distorted Muslim beliefs that have been used to sway young Muslims and encourage them to anti-government operations.

Police crackdown on ‘illegal’ Tak Bai VCD - The Nation, December 9, 2004
...Piya Partha-silpine, district chief of Tak Bai, said individuals who possess or distribute VCDs of the crackdown on October 26, which ended in the death of at least 85 unarmed demonstrators, would be considered to have broken the law...
Piya did not elaborate on why it is declaring the Tak Bai VCDs illegal six weeks after the event or on what legal grounds the authorities could prosecute those who possess copies...

Authorities move to suppress video of Tak Bai violence - AFP, November 27, 2004
The Thai government is moving to suppress a video CD of security forces beating Muslim protestors in the restive south on a day in which 87 demonstrators were killed...

A tale of two newspapers: The fake press briefing - November 6, 2004
The story about the fake press briefing was carried on the front page of The Nation (and its Thai-language counterpart Kom Chad Luek). The Nation was keen to suggest this was intimidation against Nation Group photographers who took photos showing police firing into the Tak Bai protesters. The Bangkok Post chose not to carry this story at all.

CSD lures media to false press briefing - The Nation, November 5, 2004
...CSD officers were keen to find out who had taken a picture of commandos firing live rounds at Tak Bai protesters. The photograph, which appeared in Nation Multimedia Group publications on October 28, contradicted the government's claim that troops had fired into the air to scare protesters away.
The CSD's interest in knowing the identity of the photographer has raised the question of whether authorities had a hidden agenda...

The AP ran this story as well: Thai police surprise journalists with questioning about riot that left 85 dead - AP, November 4, 2004

Protests outside Thai embassy and consulate - The Malaysia Star, October 30, 2004
Public outcry continued to pour out against the death of 87 protestors in Thailand, with hundreds of people demonstrating outside the Thai Embassy here...

People of Bangladesh shocked at excesses by Thai troops
- The New Nation, October 30, 2004
The way the Thai government is responding to the demand for autonomy of the Muslims of the country's southern province of Narathiwat is not only improper but...

Freed Thai Muslims Recount Detention "Hell" - Islam Online, October 30, 2004
Muslim men released on Saturday, October 30, after six days in Thai military detention...

PM on air to explain Tak Bai deaths - TNA, October 30, 2004
PM says Post report 'awful' - Bangkok Post, October 31, 2004
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday slammed the Bangkok Post for damaging international confidence in Thailand's democratic system with its report that southern Muslim religious and community leaders will ask for a royally-appointed government from His Majesty the King to replace his administration...

Country's stable reputation battered
- Bangkok Post, October 30, 2004
Political and social stability, long one of Thailand's strongest virtues in the eyes of foreign investors, has been turned upside-down following this week's events in the violence-plagued South...

Wisarut point out Eyewitness Accounts of the tragedy at Tak Bai from

News on the troubles in the South - October 28, 2004

Indonesian press furious over detainees' deaths in Thailand - AFP, October 27, 2004
Indonesia's press has expressed fury over the deaths of 78 Muslim protesters in southern Thailand and warned that the incident would increase tension in the predominantly-Muslim region...
The Nation has another blistering editorial: Has Thailand lost its conscience?
Asian human rights group slams Thai government over riot deaths - Kyodo, October 27, 2004
Thai militant group threatens Bangkok with attack - Reuters, October 27, 2004
Thai PM Defiant Amid Anger Over Deaths - AP, October 27, 2004
Thailand's prime minister was defiant in the face of mounting anger at home and from his country's Asian neighbors and the United States over the deaths of 78 Muslims while in army detention after a riot, insisting Wednesday that the military used "the soft approach."...
Statement from Amnesty International - October 27, 2004
Thailand rebels use motorcycles with deadly efficiency - Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2004
An insurgency is gaining ground in predominantly Muslim southern Thailand as military planners struggle to counter a potent new mode of guerrilla warfare: the use of motorcycles as attack vehicles.
Thai Muslim rebels on bikes have gunned down an estimated 240 government officials and security personnel in hit-and-run assaults this year. More than 375 people – including targets, bystanders and militants – have been killed in sectarian violence.
...Trained and equipped to fight guerrillas on foot, Thai security forces have struggled to cope with the motorbike attacks. Last month, the government doubled troop strength in the region to about 10,000 after a prominent judge was gunned down on his way to work in Pattani province.
"It's a new type of nonconventional threat: part jungle, part urban, highly mobile and highly effective," said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security expert who advises the Thai army. "It's hit a blind spot in the military's defenses."...

Belief in signs and portents is observed in Thai current events: Mayhem will spread, seers say

and Nation editorials on Tak Bai - October 28, 2004

Finally, the Bangkok Post has stepped up with a tough editorial of its own after a rather weak one yesterday that praised government restraint.
Today: Tak Bai shatters all hope of peace - October 28, 2004

Yesterday: A tale of two editorials: Deaths in custody - October 27, 2004

A tale of two editorials: Deaths in custody - October 27, 2004

COMMENT: Body count spirals during PM's reign - The Nation, October 27, 2004
The Nation lays the blame in Thaksin's style of leadership and condemns the government in every way possible. In contrast to the Post, which praises the forthrightness of the government response, The Nation says just the opposite: the government was silent as the news trickled out. It ends by suggesting the Prime Minister himself needs to be 'reshuffled.'

It was yet another black day for Thaksin Shinawatra's premiership. When more than 80 Thais perished at the hands of Thai troops in the deep South on Monday - six in the clash between protesters and security forces and 78 reportedly from suffocation after being rounded up and put in the back of military trucks - everything else that has marred his highly controversial reign now pales in comparison.
His contempt for human rights has resulted in a scattering of personal tragedies, masked by the proclaimed success of the war on drugs. But now this flawed trait of his leadership is threatening to plunge the country into the bitterest and most detrimental divide between the people and the state...
Thaksin may not have been directly responsible for them being crammed into military trucks like pigs headed for slaughterhouses, but the troops' demonstration of hatred and disregard for humanitarianism simply reflected how the country is being governed...

Something went terribly wrong - Bangkok Post, October 27, 2004
The Bangkok Post does not mention Thaksin at all. The Post praises government restraint during the riot, saying shots were fired in the air. They also report the Prime Minister's comments about protesters weakened by Ramadan fasting as fact. The police are praised for having the decency to confront the truth about what happened.

... The officers who went public yesterday with the news of the deaths demonstrated deep remorse for the unexpected tragedy and vowed not to allow such an incident to happen again. They also promised that an inquiry would dig deep into the incident.
Instead of covering up the tragedy, as has been the case in the past, the authorities concerned, especially the officer in charge of restoring peace to the restive region, Gen Sirichai Tunyasiri, should be commended for having the courage to face the truth head-on and also for having the decency to show deep sorrow for the unexpected tragedy.
...Monday's dreadful tragedy should serve as a valuable lesson for the government, not just on how it should handle potentially violent protests, but also how it should treat arrested suspects with unbiased fairness, dignity and respect for their human rights.
Hopefully, the lesson has been learned and will not be repeated. Too many innocent lives, both Muslims and non-Muslims, have already been lost.

Three reports on the riot in Narathiwat - October 26, 2004

PM makes urgent visit to South
- TNA, October 25, 2004
The government Thai news Agency (TNA) basically reports the facts and highlights the Prime Minister's statements.

Protest in Narathiwat: Six killed in bloody clashes with troops
- The Nation, October 26, 2004
Same facts, but reordered. Deaths are reported in the headline. Adds background and ramifications as well as that the dead were shot. Has a quote from a witness claiming police shot people. States "some 1,000 protesters were arrested" and puts the crowd size at 3,000.

Bloodshed, mayhem in South
- Bangkok Post, October 26, 2004
The Post's extremely early press time once again puts it behind. It does not have the final death toll or can report on the causes of death. States "more than 300 protesters were arrested..." and, like most sources, estimates a crowd of 2,000. It gives a third of the article space to an government defense of the event and the claim that agitators incited the event. Whether true or not, claims of agitators are always cited in cases of public unrest.
..."It's the lightest containment tactic we could think of. Would you prefer soldiers to fire cotton balls at the protesters instead?" he said.
The general called on the media not to blow the issue out of proportion by describing the standoff as "the second Black May massacre" which would be grossly misleading, he said...
About 50 core protesters wore hoods and were reported to be armed. Religious leaders and locals confirmed they were not from the neighbourhood.
Gen Sirichai said he believed a "third hand" had plotted the unrest and fired pistols into the air during the scuffle...
Both the Post and The Nation include additional articles in which leaders of Muslim groups state that the government acted too harshly.

More on Troubles in the South
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