Socialist Worker

Thailand: Is military using British arms in crackdown?

Issue No. 2202

The British government is supplying the military that has murdered protesters in Thailand.

In 2009 it issued arms export licences valued at over £1 million a month. The deadly exports include riot control ammunition, and parts for assault rifles and missles.

And a Thai military delegation was invited to the 2009 DSEI arms fair in London.

These facts may explain why the British government has been silent over the slaughter.

The Thai Red Shirts were defying a brutal government crackdown as Socialist Worker went to press.

Since the repression began on Friday of last week at least 37 people have been killed. Hundreds more are injured.

The government had issued a statement demanding that a Red Shirt occupation in the centre of the capital, Bangkok, dispersed.

The Red Shirts refused to move until the government took responsibility for 25 people killed in previous clashes.

The government and the army later intensified the level of bloodshed.

Red Shirts fought back with slingshots, homemade rockets—and some rifles.

Army snipers killed one of leading Red Shirts—an army general who defected and is known as Seh Daeng (Red Commander).

The workers and poor farmers have been occupying the city’s richest shopping and hotel district since early April.

They are demanding the government call new elections.

Thousands of people were involved, though numbers have gone down since the shooting started.

Thai socialist Giles Ji Ungpakorn said on Tuesday, “The government knows that it would lose an election. It was never elected and is only in power because the army and the judiciary have repeatedly frustrated the democratic process since the 2006 coup.

“This is a class war. The Red Shirts represent workers and small farmers. They are facing the armed might of the ruling class and are standing firm.”

The Red Shirts’ organisation is known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).

As the crackdown continued, protests spread across Bangkok last weekend.

The government has declared a state of emergency across 22 provinces, accounting for 30 percent of the country.

An anti-government rally was held in Ubon Ratchatani, in the north east of the country, where the UDD is strong. Police say hundreds of protesters gathered in Chonburi province, to try and block a port.

One protest leader there threatened to set an oil tanker on fire if the government moved in on the Bangkok encampment.

The UDD are now in a difficult position.

If they get smashed off the streets without securing concrete assurance of an election date it will cause a crisis in the movement and any achievements will be limited.

But their leadership is not offering a strategy for dealing with a government that refuses to compromise.

Strikes to back the protests would put the movement in a much stronger position to win—and to push for more radical changes in society.


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International
Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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