Thai activists use light show to jog memories of crackdown

BANGKOK (AP) — A group of political activists in Thailand has taken credit for staging nighttime light shows marking the anniversary of the army’s violent quashing of an anti-government uprising in 2010.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, asked Tuesday about the action, said that as the country battles the spread of the coronavirus, people should work together and not start any campaigns that could spread havoc and confusion.

Police said they are investigating if any law was broken.

The action, carried out Sunday night by a group called the Progressive Movement, came ahead of the May 19 anniversary of the army’s final clearance of demonstrators.

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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.

More than 90 people were killed and almost 2,000 injured during the nine weeks of protests. Most casualties were caused by the security forces. Prayuth, then a senior army general, was involved in the crackdown.

Pannika Wanich, a former lawmaker who is an executive committee member of the Progressive Movement, said she hopes its campaign will prompt people to explore what actually happened, not only in 2010 but in several previous mass killings of civilians.

“We have faced too many massacres in Thailand and that’s because no one has been made responsible for the massacre and enough is enough, we don’t need this to repeat itself again in the near future,” she said.

Sunday’s light projections from a van avoided breaching rules against gatherings that were enacted to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Their ephemeral nature also skirted laws covering trespassing, vandalism and illegal online content.

The activists projected the slogan “Seeking The Truth” on five structures. They included a monument to democracy in the old part of the city, a mass transit station beside the site of the 2010 protest, and a temple where six people, including a nurse, were fatally shot during the dispersal.

The message “This place has truths that the soldiers swept under the carpet” was also flashed across the temple’s walls. At the Defense Ministry, the activists projected video clips showing troops preparing to open fire on the morning of the operation.

Projecting text, pictures and video on public spaces is known as projection mapping, and was originally popular with artists and later adopted for political purposes.

“Because it is during the COVID-19 quarantine, it is not easy to communicate to the masses. We are a movement. but you cannot hold any protest or you cannot gather many people to communicate with them, so you have only online channels left,” Pannika said. “You need to find some interesting tools to call for attention from them.”

News of the exploit was the major trending topic on Twitter in Thailand on Monday and Tuesday.

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Associated Press journalists Jerry Harmer and Grant Peck contributed to this story.

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