This was emphasised by the clash between red-shirt and yellow-shirt supporters outside the Crime Suppression Division headquarters on Phahon Yothin Road on Tuesday.
CSD police have come under criticism for their failure to prevent the scuffling between the rival political groups.
The yellow-shirts went to the CSD in a show of support for Manasnant Nookham, a former female teacher at an international school in Pathum Thani who is facing a defamation charge brought against her by Darunee Kritboonyalai, a former socialite who is now a prominent red-shirt activist.
Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Kamronwit Toopkrachang said on Wednesday that he did not understand why the CSD could not control the two rival groups despite, pointing out the CSD has its own crowd control unit. He said that the CSD actually asked for reinforcements from the Metropolitan Police Bureau, but by the time they arrived at the scene it was already too late, the brawl was well underway.
Pol Lt-Gen Kamronwit suggested that if there is a demonstration at any venue his bureau should be notified in advance, so that police could be despatched there as a precaution.
It is fortunate that none of the demonstrators were seriously hurt. Two yellow-shirt and five red-shirt people were slightly injured and two cars were damaged, allegedly by yellows. The injured have already lodged complaints against one another with Phahon Yothin police.
Royal Thai Police spokesman Pol Maj-Gen Piya Uthayo said they were examining videos and other evidence from the clash to find out who started the violence. He denied police had underestimated the situation, but admitted it was difficult to separate the opposing sides because most of them did not wear the symbolic red or yellow.
Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said clashes between yellows and reds were a normal thing, and due mutual misunderstandings. That I cannot not agree with. These clashes are not normal and should not be allowed to happen, even if the two sides despise each other so deeply.
Yet, I find a remark about the same incident by Korkaew Pikulthong, a Pheu Thai list MP and a hardcore leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) surprisingly sensible. He reportedly appealed to the two opposing camps to exercise restraint and to avoid confrontation.
Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha also had some words of wisdom. He said: “These days, we are going backwards, toward squabbling among ourselves. Be careful what may happen one day. If we do not want our country to suffer the same kind of destruction faced by other countries, we must be restrained, less violent, obey the law and accept differing views."
Back to the defamation charge, yellow-shirt followers strongly feel that Mrs Manasnant did not defame Mrs Darunee but merely acted as a Thai patriot to protect the monarchy. In their opinion, she should be treated as a heroine for having the courage to stand up in defence of the revered institution.
“Why did you revile the King?” -- those were the words Mrs Manasnant said to Mrs Darunee during an encounter at the upscale Paragon shopping mall, words that landed Mrs Manasnant in legal trouble.
There is nothing unlawful about asking this question if it is done in a proper manner or, even better, in private. Because of Thai sensitivity about the royalty issue, this question is best not raised with someone in public, such as a busy shopping mall, and in a loud voice that attracts the attention of other people because it can embarrass the person being asked, or even cause them shame.
Obviously, it was the way Mrs Manasnant asked the question, right in her face, that caused Mrs Darunee to take the matter to CSD and file a complaint. Had Mrs Manasnant raised the question quietly and in a proper fashion, the red-shirt activist would probably not have taken her case to the police, and there would be no cause for the demonstration at the CSD.
Whether this case finally makes it to court or not, both reds and yellows should leave it to the CSD. Let them do their job.But if yellow supporters really feel the need to give moral support to Mrs Manasnant they can do so, but they should also exercise restraint.
And the red-Shirts should not interfere. Demonstrating to support the police is totally unnecessary and carries with it the risk of a confrontation. Above all, in this case it is not a red-shirt who is facing the lawsuit, so why bother to show up and flex their muscle. Or is there a deeper motive?