Department of HistoryUniversity of Wisconsin - Madison
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privileges for years afterward. Some of them took part in another political massacre again in1992 because they knew that they would not be brought to justice.Democratization in Thailand was up and down throughout the 1980s. The more open anddemocratic period returned in 1988 but it was, as before, short lived. In 1991 the militarydictatorship returned again. This time, however, it did not last long, as a popular uprisingtook place again in 1992. More than seventy people died during a few days of fighting duringwhich soldiers roamed the streets to shoot people who opposed the regime. The militarygovernment finally gave in and retreated. But they did so after absolving themselves of anycrimes by another amnesty bill. The public demanded an investigation into the incident,nevertheless, despite the lack of authority even to force military commanders to testify, letalone to bring the wrongdoers to justice. Then, as if it was not a serious matter, the report of the investigation released many years afterward showed careless investigation and lack of efforts even to find out some basic facts. Worst of all, the report that was released to the public was heavily censored with all names and important information blackened out to theextent that the report was not intelligible. Impunity breeds total disregard to the public.Throughout these repeated tragedies, the justice system in Thailand never played anindependent role to uphold justice. Thai judicial system takes as a matter of fact that amilitary coup, if successful, is valid. The system serves the power, regardless of howlegitimately they come to power. Accordingly, the judiciary also accepts that all the ordersand bills enacted by an oligarchy in power are valid, including the absolution of militaryleaders themselves from any wrongdoing like overthrowing a democratic regime and tearingdown the democratic constitution. Also taken as legally valid by the Thai judiciary were themilitary orders for a number of executions without trial, arrests and imprisonment with or without charge, and numerous extra-judicial operations. So were the amnesty bills for thecrimes in 1973, 1976 and 1992. It is therefore impossible in Thailand to bring those who wereresponsible for the atrocities to justice, thanks to the complicity of the judiciary. Impunity for the powerful elites is a cultural, institutional, and legal. Justice is non-existent for the victimsof those tragedies. Without justice, democracy is a theatrical farce.Impunity was definitely a factor why the massacre in April-May 2010 took place again. The political and military leaders in that incident had no concern at all that they would have toface justice afterward. They made false accusations and fabricated evidence as the pretexts tokillings. Totally disregarding the international norms of crowd control, they used enormouslyexcessive violence and cruel methods to civilians, including heavy weapons, liveammunitions, snipers, and explosives. They misinformed, misled, and lied to the publicsystematically to create a climate of fear and to justify the killings. Even medical personnelwere obstructed, shot at and eventually killed as well. More than 90 people died andthousands injured. Many more were arrested and treated inhumanly. The evidence of thoseinhuman actions is abundant, as international and domestic journalists brought to public andthe public themselves shared all over the social media. But the political and military elitesoften dismissed those evidence and criticism, and often slighted them with a joke or sarcasminstead of reasons, consideration, or explanations. They were certainly aware of the precedent; impunity was a norm, a culture of power. It breeds inhumane indecency.