More to 'seeking the truth' laser campaign than meets the eye, academics say

More to 'seeking the truth' laser campaign than meets the eye, academics say

A message asking about the ‘truth’ behind the 2010 political violence is projected on a building inside the Defence Ministry compound, referring to the crackdown on the red shirts in the capital in 2010. (Photo from Progressive Movement webpage)
A message asking about the ‘truth’ behind the 2010 political violence is projected on a building inside the Defence Ministry compound, referring to the crackdown on the red shirts in the capital in 2010. (Photo from Progressive Movement webpage)

The laser projection of political messages on landmarks in the capital by the Progressive Movement is more than just a bid by the one-time party to build momentum, observers say.

If the "truth" about the 2010 protest crackdown is found, it is important the conflict parties accept it, or fissures in Thai politics will be perpetuated endlessly, academics said.

Prof Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, said the projection of "seeking the truth" which is linked to the red-shirt protests in 2010 serves two purposes.

One is to mobilise public participation in their quest for the truth behind the political unrest in which dozens of people including state officers were killed, as the 10th anniversary approaches.

The other is to build the momentum for their campaign to oust the current government and build support for the Move Forward Party (Kao Klai), the reincarnation of the Future Forward Party, he said.

The group will air The Look of Silence documentary from Indonesia and organise a forum discussing the film on Tuesday as part of the campaign.

The professor said the Progressive Movement was justified in searching for the facts as long as the group's activities are in line with the law.

Prof Chaiyan said he is confident the truth about what happened can be found, especially as it was just a decade ago. He said evidence, witness accounts, records of orders, and speeches on protest stages have been examined.

"The TRC's (Truth for Reconciliation Commission) report is available and can be used as a base to seek further information for the unanswered questions," he said.

"The Progressive Movement should have the Move Forward Party propose a motion in parliament to seek more information.

"If doubts about this event are cleared, no one will dare do something reckless like this again, no matter if it's the conflict parties or a third party who wants to instigate the situation," he said.

Somjai Phagaphasvivat, a political scientist at Thammasat University, said the political polarisation over the past decade has rarely changed except that there is a new player -- the Progressive Movement.

However, he said the new group is aligned to the red-shirt movement -- they have a similar approach while using social media to boost anti-government sentiment and rally public support.

Even so, the alliance between these two groups is loose and formed simply because they have a common enemy -- the Prayut government which is seen as the prolonged power of the military government, he said.

Mr Somjai said the Progressive Movement, a newcomer in the political arena which advocates against dictatorship, stands a better chance of rising to power than the red shirt group.

He said the new movement has yet to prove itself if it differs from the red shirt group, which is linked to the old Pheu Thai government which stands accused of abusing its majority.

The yellow-shirt movement and their allies, meanwhile, have weakened and are in much worse shape than the red-shirt group, especially after the general election last year, he said.

"In politics, facts don't matter as much as what people believe. The people see a dictatorial government. They don't understand that democracy also includes legitimacy to run the country. They don't care about the process and for them, an election is as good as democracy," he said.

Mr Somjai said the country can expect to see the return of a quasi-democracy, abuse of majority, and then a coup. He blamed it on the failure to properly educate the people about politics.

"We've gone through this several times. The vicious cycle will go on. A coup is here to stay ... that is because a majority dictatorship will always claim they are elected," he said.

"We're in transition. And it will come full cycle over the next 10 years."

Kanit Nanakorn, former chairman of the now-defunct TRC, said he was disappointed the panel's suggestions were never put into practice.

The committee was set by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to look into the political turbulence of April and May 2010. It released the final report two years later during the Yingluck Shinawatra government's reign.

Mr Kanit said the commission's report would not put an end to the political confrontations, but the justice administration process would. He said that he regretted the proposal was not implemented and it could have saved the country from further political chaos.

He said he was invited by the junta government to work on a reconciliation committee set up after the 2014 coup but he declined because it was all in the commission's report. Even so, he offered to clarify any questions.

He said he submitted a 95-page summary he made from the report to the government, but no one was likely to have read it. Thousands of copies were sent to libraries across the country and he doubted if any copy was checked out or read.

"Those who search for truth should read it. It seems we haven't learned a thing," he said.

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