“ผมเอาไม่อยู่แล้ว แกนนำก็ไม่มีเลย ไม่รู้ใครเป็นใคร”
“I can no longer control the situation. There’re no leaders. Nobody knows who’s who.”
– Doctor Tosaporn Sirirak posted on his Facebook Page
Doctor Tosaporn is a respected figure in the pro-democracy movement. He tried his best, using the loudspeaker and asking the Bad Guards to stand down. They didn’t listen to him.
Here’s what happened on Sunday, 28 February.
The march organized by the Free Youth pro-democracy movement started from the Victory Monument. Between two to three kilometers away from the First Infantry Regiment army base on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, the home of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
There were around a thousand protestors, give or take, and this is a generous estimation. The goal was to conduct a symbolic ceremony for the release of pro-democracy activists from prison and highlight General Prayut’s tax records.
Hundreds of riot police and two water cannon trucks were stationed on a side street next to the Veteran Hospital. The protestors passed the police peacefully, except for screams of obscenities.
The protestors gathered in front of the army base. They moved the containers and cut barbwires placed in front of the army base walls.
The police stationed near the Veteran Hospital conducted a pincer maneuver. They came up to the protestors from behind.
After an initials clash, one elderly lady walked up to the police line, sat on the pavement, and flashed the three-finger salute.
A young man followed her example. Then the protest guards and protestors followed. Tens of them sat down, either showing the three-finger salute or empty hands, telling the police that they have no weapons. It was a “Kodak Moment” of peaceful resistance.
Then, all hell broke loose. From behind the police line, another group of police battled the protestors.
Projectiles were thrown. The police caught up to a man and proceeded with a gang-style beatdown. Smoke filled the air. Tear gas everywhere. I took some in the mouth and the eyes. Water cannons shot at protestors. Shotgun rifles came out. Rubber bullets flew. Sounds of small explosions everywhere.
There were altogether at least three locations where clashes occurred—followed by small skirmishes that lasted past midnight.
It’s beating on a dead horse to discuss police brutality. When you’re an instrument of tyranny, brutality comes naturally.
On the other hand, it’s imperative to highlight violence by a group of protest guards. Not only do they put other protestors in danger (including bystanders, women, children, and the elderly), but they also paint the optic of the pro-democracy movement as a bunch of violent thugs.
The Good Guards
There’s a group of protest guards who were there to keep the peace. They tried their best to prevent others from throwing projectiles, from provoking the police, and from rushing the police line to attack them with sticks and pipes.
The Good Guards “wai,” begged, and pleaded, even at times got into scuffles with other guards and hot-headed protestors. All was for one reason only, to prevent violence. They should be commended.
At the end of the ordeal, I shook their hands and thanked them for their bravery and sacrifice.
The Bad Guards
At the scene of every violent clash, not just yesterday’s, but also include the clash at the Pathumwan Police Station, the Parliament House, and others, it’s always the same group.
The same group of protest guards who, while initial violence may be understandable, the continued violence is unacceptable. Of course, they are angry. They have every right to be pissed off. So does everyone else. But while everyone else tried to keep the peace, this group attempted to escalate the violence, and they were successful.
Plainclothes security forces in white helmets?
Suspicious-looking men with military haircuts?
The third-hand planted to instigate?
They are not needed.
Who needs a third-hand when we have these Bad Guards. If the government wants to cast the pro-democracy movement as violent thugs, these Bad Guards unwittingly do the job for General Prayut.
Here’s food for thought. At every clash, a score of protestors is arrested. But these same Bad Guards are still at every protest, doing their bad things. The police know who they are. Free Youth knows who they are. But for whatever reason, they seem untouchable.
The Ugly Truth
The guards are made up mostly of vocational school students. For some (Good Guards), the pro-democracy movement has provided them with purpose and direction in life. This is a good thing.
For others (Bad Guards), they take the pro-democracy protests as just another opportunity to wreak havoc.
The truth of the matter is, many of these vocational students are notorious as street thugs. They have been waging street battles against one another since before there’s such a thing as a political awakening of Thailand’s new generation. If it weren’t for the pro-democracy activities, they would still be bashing each other’s heads in.
The Bad Guards need to be cut from the movement before they get anyone else hurt. Before they do any more damage to the movement. But therein lies the problem. Who’s going to cut them?
We return to Doctor Tosaporn’s quote at the beginning of this article. “There’re no leaders.”
He referred to yesterday’s protest, but also, the entire pro-democracy movement is leaderless.
It’s made up of different factions, namely Thammasat For Assembly and Free Youth. Neither of which have any control over the guards. Simply put, the guards run their own show. For example, the WeVO (We Volunteer) guard group is their own organization.
So who controls the situation? Who gives the direction? Who makes the plan? Who is it that both the Good Guards and the Bad Guards would listen to?
The answer is no one.
When no one is in charge and “shit hits the fan,” what is the result? Anarchy.
The scene from yesterday will keep repeating itself.
Someone needs to step up, or else the pro-democracy movement will lose its legitimacy.
“ผมเอาไม่อยู่แล้ว แกนนำก็ไม่มีเลย ไม่รู้ใครเป็นใคร”