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Ceremony marks 10th anniversary of quashing of Thai protests

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AP  |  Bangkok 

A group of former demonstrators gathered in Thailand's capital on Tuesday to remember those killed when soldiers violently ended a months-long anti-government protest 10 years ago.

Around 50 people died when troops, firing live rounds and backed by armored vehicles, stormed barricades to drive out thousands of protesters known as the Red Shirts.

They had occupied part of the city's central business district to try to force out a government they considered illegitimate.

The fatalities included a nurse who was shot in the grounds of a temple as she tended to the injured.

Twenty-five people who participated in the protest attended Tuesday's memorial event, led by Red Shirt chairman Jatuporn Prompan.

There was little sign of politics and no rousing rhetoric. Instead, the atmosphere was solemn and subdued. The mourners gave gifts to Buddhist monks and then knelt while the monks chanted prayers.

Under pressure from the government, commemorations of the killings have dwindled in size in recent years. The Red Shirt movement is also no longer the force it once was. Restrictions on large-scale gatherings are also in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some supporters said they would hold commemorations online.

The army attack on the Red Shirt encampment on May 19, 2010, ended a massive sit-in that had paralyzed Bangkok's central business district for three months. Firing live rounds, soldiers stormed through the camp's barricades and pursued fleeing protesters.

The situation had turned increasingly violent, with around 40 people dying in previous clashes in the run-up to the final assault, most of them unarmed demonstrators. But several soldiers died too.

The authorities justified their attack by saying the Red Shirts had an armed faction.

The incident remains bitterly divisive. On Tuesday, Jatuporn said there has been no justice for either side and the issue has been left to fester.

All the families of fallen heroes face the same sadness, with no difference among the more than a hundred lives lost, whether they were civilians or officials, he said.

There should have been a thorough investigation, autopsies and trials, otherwise their deaths are meaningless.

The demonstrators said the government was illegitimate and demanded that it step down. Most supported ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been ousted by the army in 2006. Administrations loyal to Thaksin were then forced out by court rulings that many considered to be judicial coups.

No one has ever been charged over the deaths.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 19 2020. 18:02 IST
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