Thailand must learn the lessons of history…
Statement on the 19th Anniversary of the Black May Incident
18 May 2011
18 May 2011 marks the 19th anniversary of what Thai people remember as “1992 Black May incident,” when a popular uprising was met with brutal and violent suppression by the military. Official reports put the death toll at 44 with 38 missing, however in actual, more people were victimized. The victims’ families continue to suffer because of the non-revelation of the truth and the absence of justice.
Almost two decades have passed since the gruesome massacre. Many questions still remain unanswered. Even the final death toll is still being disputed while the families of those who went missing continue their long and agonizing search for truth and justice.
Though the traumatic event of 1992 has triggered the demands for change that led Thailand in the road to democracy, this path is always chaotic and sometimes, violent. Human rights have always been sacrificed.
The Thai government must therefore recognize that the future of its fledgling democracy lies in dealing with its dark past. If it is to move forward towards achieving a long and lasting peace, it must first remember its own history and learn from it.
The long-delayed project to build a monument on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue would have been a good start. The Black May monument, if finally established, will stand as a stark reminder that violence must never again be used to settle political differences because it is doom to fail.
While lives lost can never be replaced, a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing, however hurtful, can help mend the deepening wounds of the Thai society so that the process of reconciliation can start.
Nevertheless, the recognition of past human rights violations is not enough to engender the culture of transparency and accountability. It necessitates sincere commitment of the state to promote and protect the human rights of its citizens. Doing such complementary efforts both for the past and for the present will bring the country to the road to genuine democracy that will guarantee the future of its citizens.
Thailand, which prides itself for being a party to seven out of the nine core human rights treaties, however fails to make human rights a reality on the ground. The issue of state impunity on the human rights violations committed in the context of the ongoing military operations in southern provinces remains unsettled. Even its promise before the international community that it will prioritize the speedy resolution of the disappearance case of human rights lawyer, Somchai Neelaphaijit turned empty when on 11 March 2011, the Appeals Court acquitted the five police officers charged with the offense of coercion and robbery.
Today as the Relatives Committee of the May 1992 Heroes commemorates the 19th anniversary of “1992 Black May Incident,” the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) expresses its firm solidarity with them and with all the families of victims of human rights violations in Thailand and around the world as we reiterate our collective call to the Thai government to move beyond human rights rhetoric and fulfill its international human rights obligations..
The call of for national reconciliation of the Thai government can only be made possible if it will lead by example. It can concretely do so by seriously investigating the past crimes, in identifying those responsible for human rights violations and imposing sanctions on them, providing reparations to victims and families, preventing future violations, and preserving and enhancing genuine and lasting peace.
There can never be peace and reconciliation without truth and justice.