Civil groups warn of risk of violence

Civil groups warn of risk of violence

Veteran activists on Thursday expressed concern over potential violence against demonstrators during the planned anti-government rally on Saturday.

Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), said Thailand has a history of violence against street protesters.

"A protest will not reach its breaking point unless military operations are launched to undermine the principle of non-violence," Mr Jatuporn told a public forum yesterday evening, referring to the deployment of soldiers to quell civil unrest in the past. "The means by which they create situations remain the same [today]."

He was speaking during a speaking event under the theme of "Lessons Learned with Recommendations from Past Political Protests" at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (Bacc).

Mr Jatuporn said state officials who carry out crackdowns perceive protesters as their enemies. "The government should facilitate rallies and refrain from [targeting] masterminds. Otherwise, it will fail to resolve conflicts."

Pipob Thongchai, former leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), said violence against protesters since Oct 14, 1973, has been "state-sponsored" because only soldiers can calculate the trajectory of bombs and bullets.

Chuwat Rerksirisuk, former committee member of the Student Federation of Thailand and a student protest leader during Black May in 1992, said protesting students today are dismantling a "rule by a moral man" system, a legacy of Oct 6, 1976, which he describes as a deep-rooted structure of violence.

"[Authorities] see [protesters] as childish, emotional and historically ignorant," he said. "Such a view belittles [student] movements and justifies crackdowns because they are stepping out of line." "This is what they are trying to challenge," Mr Chuwat said.

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