Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Simple Truth

The Simple Truth
The Simple Truth (an English translation of the Thai ความจริงไม่มีสี) is Abhisit Vejjajiva's account of the 2009 and 2010 political protests in Thailand. Abhisit was Thai Prime Minister from the end of 2008 (when the Constitutional Court dissolved the ruling People Power Party) until 2011 (when he was defeated by Yingluck Shinawatra in a general election). His term of office was dominated by a series of protests by the UDD. These culminated in the events of Black May 2010, during which Abhisit authorised the use of lethal force by the army, and more than ninety people were killed.

The book begins with a foreword by Korn Chatikavanij, justifying the use of military force against the protesters though regretting that "over 90 soldiers, civilians and protesters died". Note that he lists soldiers before protesters, implying that the army suffered the most casualties, when in fact less than 10% of the victims were soldiers. Korn even claims that the army's use of live bullets was part of the UDD's strategy: "The rationale used by the protest organisers was that, for the government to lose, protesters must die. For that to happen, the army must be armed with real bullets. And for that to happen, the army must first be attacked with real weapons".

Abhisit constantly links the UDD protesters with violence and weapons. For instance: "People could have been injured or died. I could have been the first Thai Prime Minister to die on the road", "I came face-to-face with hysteria and blind hatred that could kill", "The Red Shirts were mobilising across the entire country, effectively calling for bloodshed", "I shudder to think what might have happened had they opened fire on the troops", and "men were entering the temple, perhaps even with arms and other weapons" [my italics]. Notice his subtle linguistic device: each reference to violence is speculative or hypothetical, a rhetorical association of the red-shirts with violence.

Abhisit attributes some of the casualties to 'black-shirt' snipers who allegedly infiltrated the protest sites: "On the evening of 10 April 2010, a black-clad militia with military assault weapons launched a brutal attack on peacekeeping forces, leaving both soldiers and protesters injured and killed". As for Black May itself, he is adamant that there was no military massacre: "one thing is clear: there was never a mass killing of 90 people as the Red Shirts keep claiming". He offers no alternative explanation for the extensive bloodshed, except for another hypothetical: "could it be that the armed militia... were continuing with their strategy to destabilise the government?".

He insists that he worked tirelessly for a peaceful outcome: "I can assure you that all of us - the government and the security forces - tried our best to prevent casualties". This, of course, is at odds with his decision to order soldiers to open fire on citizens of their own country. (In contrast, he accuses Somchai Wongsawat of a "brutal suppression of PAD protesters on 7th October 2008.") One wonders who Abhisit is trying to convince. His core supporters (middle-class Bangkokians) supported the military's actions all along, and he has no need to justify his actions to them. On the other hand, anyone sympathetic to the protesters would be alienated by Abhisit's constant demonisation of the UDD.

There are some appendices, including a bizarre analysis by Philip J Cunningham of a 2012 Abhisit interview. Abhisit was interviewed by the BBC's Mishal Husain, who questioned him about the Black May military massacre. (Dismissively, he told her: "unfortunately, some people died".) Cunningham uses most of his article to suggest others whom the BBC should also interrogate, such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, and even Mark Thompson. When he does finally turn to the Abhisit interview directly, he claims that "Husain went after Mr Abhisit - battering him with rote questions, shouting down his soft-spoken voice, playing up the lurid aspects of the case". He paints Abhisit as a helpless victim, though Husain was asking pertinent questions about civilian casualties.

1 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

it is nit a review, but a UDDview. what a shame how political argumenting wants to mislead.