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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Rak Chiang Mai 51: A pride or a disgrace for Chiang Mai?
by Veera Prateepchaikul
Organisers of last Saturday’s Gay Pride parade in Chiang Mai are demanding an apology from the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group for what they described as an uncivilized action by some 30 red-shirt hooligans who broke up the parade with force and intimidation.
There is not much that the organisers who comprise non-governmental organizations working on HIV/Aids problem can do towards the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group as they are too civilized. But they should have known better that even a verbal apology from the group would be impossible because the self-righteous group believes they are above the law and thus immune to any legal sanctions.
According to news reports, some 30 red shirts went to Tawan Trendy Mall where a stage was built to welcome the Gay Pride parade which was due to kick off from Buddasathan, through the Night Bazaar and finally ending at the mall. Once there, the red shirts launched verbal attacks against the event claiming that it was unsuitable and would tarnish the city’s reputation. The gang then dismantled the stage and threatened to resort to violence if the parade was to be held forcing the organisers to call off the event.
This latest thuggish act by the red shirts associated with the Rak Chiang Mai 51 has not only shamed the northern capital wellknown the world over for the friendliness and hospitality of its people but may turn away many would-be visitors. Several state agencies have avoided Chiang Mai as a venue of their seminars or meetings for fear that they will be disrupted by the red shirts.
For those who may not have any memory about the notoriety of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group, the followings are some of the incidents perpetrated by the group’s red-shirts:
A few days before the breakup of the Gay Pride parade last Saturday, dozens of red shirts went to Chiang Mai provincial hall where hundreds of corn farmers were protesting and demanding help from the government. The red shirts tried to intervene but they were rejected by the farmers who made clear they did not want politics to get mixed up with their protest. But the red-shirt leaders felt offended by the rejection and engaged in angry arguments with the farmers. Luckily, there was no violent incident.
On January 23, a few hundred red shirts led by Mr Petchavak Wattanapongsirikul, self-appointed leader of Rak Chiang Mai 51 raided a branch monastery of the Santi Asoke sect in Chiang Mai under a false pretext that some illegal objects might be hidden in the premise. The red shirts’ blatant act stunned the Santi Asoke followers who are mostly children, women and the elderly. However, these people did not put up any resistance and allowed the red shirts to make the arbitrary searches which produced nothing illegal.
A similar ugly incident occurred in Lampang province when some 300 Rak Chiang Mai 51 red shirts went to Lampang Regent Lodge hotel to make searches after it was reported that Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a People’s Alliance for Democracy leader, was due to attend a seminar organized by PAD’s Lampang chapter.
And there was that shameful incident which happed at Chiang Mai University when one red-shirt protester slapped the face of a female lecturer who tried unsuccessfully to talk reasons with a group of red-shirt protesters who attempted to break up a get-together party of the university alumni in search of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban who was reported to attend the event as an alumnae.
But the worst violent incident involving the Rak Chiang Mai 51 group was the red shirts’ raid last year of a community radio station of a PAD follower in the northern capital. The father of the station owner who was a very old man was allegedly beaten to death by the red-shirt protesters.
Of all the violent incidents involving Chiang Mai’s red shirts, the Rak Chiang Mai 51 leaders have never made any apology or shown remorse for the death of the poor defendless old man beaten to death in a cowardly manner by the red shirts.
The reluctance of the Chiang Mai police to take legal actions against the law breakers seems to have emboldened the Rak Chiang Mai 51 to the extent that they believe they can take law into their own hands and can escape scot free for all the violence perpetrated by their street thugs.
Despite the notoriety of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 and the shame the group has brought on the northern capital, one may wonder aloud what has happened to the city and its people? How can they be so apathetic and so tolerable with such senselessness without uttering a voice of protest?
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