Political Killings in Thailand

Khun Angkhana Neelaphaijit, wife of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit who disappeared a few years ago, has wondered whether one of the police officers identified by witnesses may have faked his own death. The officer concerned, Pol Maj Ngern Thongsuk, was reported to have been washed away on September 19th during the construction of a reservoir. The body of his relative, Khun Naruechai Chinwannarat, was apparently recovered but that of the Pol Maj has not been. He had been identified by witnesses as being involved in forcing Khun Somchai into a car on Ramkhamhaeng Road on the night he disappeared. Many people assume that he was killed (since his body has not been recovered, this is just an assumption by people) in connection with his defence activities of people in the deep south. Few court cases are brought about in the region despite the many thousands of deaths caused by the insurgency and a wide range of other alleged crimes.

Political killings have been quite common in Thailand of course. Notorious criminals such as Field Marshall Sarit would run up and shoot (according to my informant in this area) various Chinese workers accused, however lightly, of gangsterism and shooting them. These killings, like many others, tended to go unreported in the press – a few weeks ago, a letter to the Bangkok Post pointed out a shooting death almost at the gates of Chulalongkorn University which has subsequently gone unreported. Benedict Anderson, in an article in the New Left Review entitled ‘Murder and Progress in Modern Society’ some years ago distinguished between two principal categories of murder: ‘national’ killings which were performed by agents of the state and were anti-middle class in intention so as to reinforce the political status quo and the ‘local’ killings, which were performed by private mercenaries and were pro-middle class and intended to intimidate members of the subaltern classes and their self-appointed tribunes – that is, union leaders, community leaders and others standing in the way of progress.

There are too many guns available. The killings almost certainly continue, one way or another.

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JW has been one of the first contributors to this blog before he gave up on it all in April 2010, during a time when Thai society got more and more polarized about political matters because of red-shirt protesters.

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