Mon, 06 Aug 2001

Men of violence

Political leaders have a tendency of doing the most impolitic things. Take Thaksin Shinawatra and his administration's invitation to Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn and Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon to attend a workshop on bureaucratic reform in Pattaya this weekend. A monument is to be unveiled on Oct. 14 on the 28th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, and so inviting the two disgraced former military strongmen who were responsible for brutally putting down pro-democracy protests is a most ill- considered act.

In 1992, Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon named himself prime minister, despite promising never to take the post, after having staged a coup d'etat the year before. When hundreds of thousands of people .. took the streets in protest and to demand his resignation in May that year, Gen. Suchinda took a leaf straight out of the Thanom book. He called out the troops and unarmed protesters were beaten, shot and killed. Scores of people died and many are still missing.

Neither (Foreign Minister) Thanom or Gen. Suchinda have shown any repentance for their efforts to preserve their own power through the use of brutal force against people who dared to stand up against dictatorship. They have not apologized to the people for what they put the country through or expressed any heartfelt regret to the relatives of those whose lives they are ultimately responsible for cutting short. On the contrary, they maintain that what they did was for the sake of the country and they have nothing to apologize for.

This is not how many other people see things, and it would not do for the rest of the country to forgive and forget. It would not do for Mr. Thaksin or anyone else to honor them by inviting them to a forum where they might hope to rehabilitate their social standing. For until the two former junta leaders show some sign of realizing the grave injustice they have committed, this would only dishonor the memory of those who fought so selflessly in Oct. 1973, Oct. 1976 and May 1992. Although he is now fighting for his own survival, Mr. Thaksin must not forget that he would never have had the chance to become prime minister were it not for these men and women. It is they who he must honor first and foremost.

-- The Bangkok Post