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05BANGKOK3327 MAY 1992 DEMOCRACY HEROES TO BE REMEMBERED WITH MONUMENT IN BANGKOK

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“32904”,”5/19/2005 8:31″,”05BANGKOK3327″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003327

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, HUMAN RIGHTS

SUBJECT: THAILAND: MAY 1992 DEMOCRACY HEROES TO BE

REMEMBERED WITH MONUMENT IN BANGKOK

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reason: 1.4 (d)

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Families of democracy demonstrators

killed, injured or missing from a military crackdown in May

1992 laid the foundation stone for a new memorial in Bangkok.

Opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit spoke in praise of

those who \”sacrificed to bring democracy\” to the Thai people.

No Royal Thai Government (RTG) officials attended. Victims

and their families lamented the fact that the RTG has never

taken official responsibility for the deaths and injuries

caused by security forces 13 years ago. One pointedly

invoked the current violence in the South and the tragedy at

Tak Bai as illustrating that the lessons of 1992 have not

been fully learned. End Summary.

 

MONUMENT PLANNED TO HONOR 1992 \”MAY HEROES\” OF THAI DEMOCRACY

 

2. (U) On May 17, Poloffs attended a foundation-stone laying

ceremony organized by the May 1992 Heroes\’ Relatives

Committee. The simple Brahmin ceremony was officiated by

social critic Dr. Prawes Wasi, who is also a member of the

National Reconciliation Commission (NRC). Also present, in

addition to many families who lost relatives in the

crackdown, was opposition Democrat Party (DP) leader Abhisit

Vejjajiva and DP Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin. A group

of Northeastern farmers from the NGO Assembly of the Poor

made up a large part of those gathered. Those farmers had

come to Bangkok on May 16 to demonstrate at Government House

about rural debt issues. Prominent representatives from the

National Human Rights Commission and the NGO Campaign for

Popular Democracy also attended.

 

3. (SBU) Representatives of the RTG or the Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) party and significant numbers of middle-class

Bangkokians, who made up the core of the demonstrators in

1992, were notably not in attendance. Chamlong Srimuang, the

former head of the Phalang Dharma Party, an early political

mentor (and current advisor) to Thaksin Shinawatra, and a

leader of large demonstrations in 1992, also did not attend.

He did send a wreath. (Note: PM Thaksin was busy in Buriram

province at a \”mobile cabinet meeting\” which took place at

the ancient Khmer temple of Phanom Rung. Deputy Prime

Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, perhaps the most liberal member

of Thaksin\’s cabinet, sent a commemorative wreath. End Note.)

 

4. (U) DP Leader Abhisit told the crowd that he felt a

personal responsibility to those killed in may 1992 as he had

made his initial foray into national politics as a Member of

Parliament in the first elections held after the May 1992

crackdown. \”While we are confident we won\’t return to a time

of military rule again, we must continue the fight for

democracy in order to honor those who have suffered so much,\”

he said. Later, Bangkok Governor Apirak pledged full

cooperation with the victims\’ families in completing the

monument, which is to be a small park with a conical \”stupa\”

at one end honoring the dead.

 

FAMILY MEMBERS STILL SEEKING GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY

 

5. (C) Later on May 17, Poloff met with XXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX members of May 1992

Heroes\’ Relatives Committee, at the Royal (Ratanakosin)

Hotel, located just across the street from the site of the

proposed memorial. XXXXX son was shot and killed on May 17,

1992, XXXXX son is still missing and presumed dead. In

1992, the hotel served as a makeshift hospital and sanctuary

for some of the demonstrators during the crackdown. XXXX

stated that officially there are 44 dead and 38 missing from

the incident. Eleven persons are permanently disabled and

approximately 47 more suffer long-term medical or

psychological complications as a result of injuries sustained

in the crackdown.

 

6. (C) According to XXXX and XXXX, families and victims

have received some compensation for those who have died, are

missing or are injured survivors. He refused to specify the

amount received thus far. XXXX stated that the money comes

through the Social Welfare Department and has been granted in

small piecemeal amounts under a \”special circumstances\”

provision in the social welfare system. No separate

compensation fund or comprehensive settlement has ever been

reached, as the RTG has never officially accepted

responsibility for the deaths and other losses. In July

2003, the Minister of Defense did issue a letter to victims

expressing regret, but failed to take responsibility. In

December 2003, the cabinet of the Thaksin I administration

approved nearly all of the recommendations from an

Independent Commission (IC) chaired by former PM Anand

Panayarachun that investigated compensation issues for the

May 1992 victims. That IC disbanded in January 2003 after

recommending that compensation be paid directly to victims

and that the RTG build a memorial to them. XXX and XXXXXX

said that, to date, none of these recommendations have been

implemented. The Heroes\’ Relatives Committee has already

commissioned an architectural design for the memorial.

Estimated construction costs are 25 million baht ($640,000).

Adul said the Committee could easily raise the funds

privately but wants the RTG to take responsibility and

recognize not only the mistakes made but also the historic

significance that the democracy movement of May 1992 has had

on Thai political history.

 

VICTIMS\’ FAMILIES: RTG RESPONSE TO VIOLENCE IN SOUTH

INDICATES LESSONS NOT FULLY LEARNED

7. (C) XXX recounted his sadness upon reading the reports

about the RTG\’s crackdown on demonstrators in October 2004 in

Tak Bai, Narathiwat. (78 Muslim demonstrators suffocated to

death when they were being transported to a Thai military

base, seven others died of gunshot wounds.) He wondered if

the Thai military or police would ever learn from their

mistakes. Based on the abuses that occurred at Tak Bai, XXX

concluded, the military was still using crowd control tactics

similar to those that led to the death of his son.

 

8. (C) XXXXXXXX from the Northeastern

province of Sakhon Nakhorn, expressed her sympathy for the

family of missing Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. (Note:

Somchai has been missing since March 2003 and is presumed

dead. He disappeared a few months after taking on the case

of three Muslim defendants accused of instigating unrest.

End note.) XXXX said she had recently visited Somchai\’s widow,

Angkhana, at the Neelapaijit family home in Bangkok. She

said that when she went to see Angkhana, she was surprised to

see the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) security

detail staked out (dual holstered hand guns prominently

displayed) on the ground floor of the family home. (Note:

This detail was posted after Angkhana reported receiving

threats, but now apparently is resented as intrusive. End

Note.) XXXXXsaid that she and Somchai\’s widow had to go

upstairs to Anghana\’s bedroom and talk behind closed doors

for privacy. XXXXX encouraged Angkhana to come to the May

92 commemoration events but Angkhana declined, saying that

she was afraid to go out and furthermore did not like having

her DSI detail go with her everywhere. XXXXX said she told

Angkhana \”Don\’t let them win, you must go out and speak up

for your husband.\” While recognizing that Angkhana\’s DSI

\”bodyguards\” have a different duty than the undercover police

that XXXXX said followed her for months after her son

disappeared, she expressed sympathy with the situation faced

by Angkhana and her family, who have become close friends.

 

9. (C) Both XXX and XXXX lamented the apparent lack of

RTG interest in the commemorative events. They noted that

every year since 1992, the Speaker of the House of

Representative of the Thai Parliament had attended. This

year, XXXXX noted, the RTG had provided the Committee with

some financial assistance to hold the ceremony (in the form

of a donation). XXXX also complained that the Bangkok middle

and upper classes seem to have forgotten the May 1992 events,

commenting that \”these days the youth seem more interested in

cars and cell phones than politics.\” But he expressed his

hope that if the Committee can build the monument by the 15th

anniversary commemoration in 2007, public awareness of the

events of 1992 will be renewed.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ON THE EVENTS OF MAY 17, 1992

 

10. (U) On May 17, 1992 Thai security forces began

operations to break up massive public demonstrations against

the government of then-Prime Minister Suchinda Kraprayoon,

who had seized power in a military coup which ousted the

democratically elected government of former Prime Minister

Chatchai Choonhavan in February 1991. For nearly a week

prior to the crackdown, large demonstrations demanding the

ouster of Suchinda and calling for new democratic elections

were led by former head of the Phalang Dharma Party, Chamlong

Srimuang. Crowds were estimated at over 100,000 massed in

the sweltering heat of mid-May, creating traffic gridlock in

the heart of Bangkok\’s historic capital district. The

demonstrations started at the Sanam Luang, or Royal Parade

Ground, near the beloved Grand Palace and Temple of the

Emerald Buddha and progressed down Rachadamnern Road to a

large traffic circle at Democracy Monument.

 

11. (U) On the night of May 17, the demonstrations

continued to grow. As tensions between police and military

units and the demonstrators heightened after several

successive nights of protests, the order to arrest Chamlong

and demonstration leaders was given. Clashes erupted between

the crowds and security personnel, and government units began

to open fire on the demonstrators with automatic weapons,

causing scores of deaths and hundreds of injuries. The

extent of the casualties from security forces gunfire is

still debated. A few days later, King Bhumibol called

Chamlong and Suchinda for a public rebuke and an end to the

clashes, later appointing Anand Panyarachun as caretaker

Prime Minister and setting Thailand on course for a new

elected government.

 

12. (U) During the violence, the former Public Relations

Department building was burned to the ground. This is the

site where the proposed \”Monument to the May 1992 Heroes\” is

to be built.

COMMENT

13. (C) Comment: The failure of the current government to

send a representative to the commemorative events

disappointed many observers. The events of May 1992 remain

politically sensitive with some factions in the Thai

military, particularly the issue of compensation for victims.

Most Thais, however, consider the protests of 13 years ago

and the democratic reforms in its wake as a significant

turning point in the evolution of Thai democracy. Since that

time, the military has \”returned to the barracks\” and kept

out of coup-making. The civilian administration of PM

Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party (and the democratic

opposition) in a real sense owe their existence to the

sacrifices made in May 1992. The government\’s decision to

ignore the anniversary event will strike many Thais as ironic

and callous. End Comment.

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

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