Further bloodshed must be avoided at all costs

Asian Human Rights Commission(AHRC)

This evening, April 21, there are many disturbing reports of a possible new attack to disperse anti-government protestors that have continued to assemble in Bangkok, calling for the unelected premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to step down and for new elections to be held. There are grave and legitimate fears that further violence is imminent and that more lives will be lost. On April 10, at least 25 people died and hundreds were injured when the army moved on assembled demonstrators. Although the government denied that the military on that occasion used live ammunition, all evidence is to the contrary.

The government of Thailand should by now be aware that the use of soldiers to dislodge these demonstrators is totally counterproductive. Not only has it failed in its basic objective, but it has also again dragged the country’s reputation to new lows, ironically, just as its diplomats are bidding for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government must know that it will face worldwide opprobrium if security personnel again attack and kill demonstrators.

But beyond the condemnation and outrage at home and abroad, it must also recognize that what is at stake in Thailand today is not the stability of a district or accessibility of a street, but the future of a society.

In dealing with the demonstrators, the government must bear in mind that it alone has the capacity to completely destroy respect for state institutions through rash and disorganised responses. Although others can damage these institutions, it is the persons responsible for their upkeep who can cause truly great and lasting damage. The deep loss in public respect for state institutions over recent years, especially loss of confidence in the judiciary, is primarily a consequence not of public actions but of the wrongheaded and ill-intended acts of successive administrations. Any resort to violence now will only further diminish the standing of key state agencies, causing further setbacks to the decades-long project to build rational institutions for a humane and intelligent society.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urgently reminds the government of Thailand of the special responsibility that it has to respond carefully to a complicated situation. The government cannot absolve itself of this obligation. Nor do the exigencies of the present circumstances make it less pressing; on the contrary, they make it all the more important. Further bloodshed must be avoided at all costs. The confusion and tragedy of recent days must not be turned into catastrophe.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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