Red-shirts 'died protecting their people'

The first night of the funeral of 22-year-old army Private Thanasit Viengkham was crowded but peaceful as military and red-shirt bosses hesitantly sat side-by-side at Yang temple.

Around one hundred mourners from near where Thanasit lived on Sukhumvit Soi 77, his native province Si Sa Ket, Thanarat Military Camp in Prachaup Khiri Khan, where he used to be stationed, and Sai Yok Military Training Camp, where he was attached before his death, attended the prayer service at the Phra Khanong temple on Monday night.

Pictures of the then-unidentified body of Private Thanasit first appeared on Prachatai online after photo-journalist Nick Nostitz captured images of red-shirts carrying him away from Soi Ramkhamhaeng 24-sub Soi 14 in the early hours of Dec 1 - the scene of violent clashes between anti-government students and pro-government red-shirts.

"He was a regular at the red-shirt rallies three years ago. On Saturday night, when there was a call for volunteers to patrol the stadium and guard the tens of thousands of us inside, many young men such as vocational students and ordinary people like Thanasit offered to secure the premises," said Mr Thasit Viengkham, who was one of the government supporters locked inside Rajamangala National Stadium due to the tensions rising outside.

He said one hundred or more red-shirts attempted to protect the stadium, while the sound of gunshots, slingshots and make-shift bombs rang out across the stadium.

"Then somebody held up a blood-stained helmet and told the crowd inside the Hua Mak stadium that our friend had been shot. I didn't know then it was my nephew," said the 42-year-old.

When Mr Thasit's brother, Sanit Viengkham, 46, called him half an hour later to say that Thanasit had died at Phyathai 1 Hospital, he realised the helmet had belonged to a member of his family.

Private Thanasit is survived by his parents, younger sister, two-year-old daughter, who is now in Si Sa Ket, and his wife who worked in Bangkok but is from the same province.

Thanasit's mother Niyom Surawut, 43, said her son had been on leave from Nov 25 till Dec 4. "No one thought his fate would end like this. He still has a young daughter," she said, crying.

Prayer rites will be held until the army private is cremated on Wednesday.

Thanasit's supervisor from his military training school in Kanchanaburi province attended the prayer service on Monday alongside Dr Weng Tochirakarn, core member of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) and Pheu Thai party-list MP. They did not talk to each other. After the prayers finished, wreaths from core UDD leaders including former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived at the pavilion.

A witness of the fatal confrontation near Ramkhamhaeng University told the Bangkok Post that students had been circling the stadium since Saturday evening, but verbal abuse against the red-shirts intensified after sunset, especially at Gate 1 of the sports ground.

At 9.40pm students began throwing slingshot missiles over the stadium's wall and from university buildings, forcing red-shirts to duck behind cars and trees, said the anonymous witness.

But the most violent clashes took place at Gate 5 outside the university campus on Soi Ramkhamhaeng 24.

"The red-shirt fighters were not really guards. Many of them were vocational students. They were angry and wanted to retaliate to the threatening students. Of course, they did fire gunshots and slingshots in exchange with the student fighters," said the witness.

Shortly before midnight 60 unarmed police arrived in a truck but could not get inside sub-soi 4 of the road, the source said. The red-shirts found a middle-aged man from the student's side who they alleged had fired shots at them and turned him to the police.

"Most of the red-shirts were actually trapped inside the stadium because missiles and gunshots were threatening them all night. Many ran out of water and just waited desperately for sunrise," claimed the witness, who said he had to run around to cover himself during the attack.

Shortly before 2am, the first casualties from Ramkhamhaeng sub-soi 4 were carried out. Some red-shirts took to motorcycles to try and chase students back into the campus, the source said.

"It was not the red-shirts who went after the students but it was the other way round. The red-shirts were laid siege to and many were beaten as the students singled out individual members who either wanted to leave or enter the stadium, even that afternoon," he said.

The clash claimed four lives in total. The others killed were red-shirt supporters Viroj Khemnak, 43, and Visanu Phaophu, 26, and Ramkhamhaeng University student Thaweesak Phokaew, 21.

Chavit Suriya, core leader of the Nonthaburi Alliance for Democracy, said tensions escalated after students alleged that red-shirt members slashed a vinyl image of King Ramkhamhaeng, the emblem of the university.

"But our rally was peaceful for more than a week until the university allowed students to stage a protest very near the stadium. Who could actually fire a high-velocity weapon against Viroj Khemnak at Gate 2 after 5am? I'm not so sure if it was the students," said Mr Chavit.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 04/12/2013 at 07:30 PM
76 (and counting) don't regard the other three victims worth bothering about. Such is the Red concept of humanity.
Discussion 2 : 04/12/2013 at 09:13 AM
It makes no difference which color the young Army Pvt supported, but rather another young man is dead. How many more must die to rid the country of corruption? Throughout the world people suffer because the politicians only thing about how much they can take from the working people.
Discussion 3 : 04/12/2013 at 09:10 AM
Both sides are at fault and both sides were violent. I have amateur footage of the incident. Its hard to believe school officials let these acts to be allowed on the school campus, as well as police allowing red shirts to attack a school campus as well.
Discussion 4 : 04/12/2013 at 08:50 AM
Easy answer; t provoke the red shirts and then, as usual, point the finger at them and say "see, the red shirts are violent". Back by a willing media this often works well. But today the flow of information is not as controlled as it once was.
Discussion 5 : 04/12/2013 at 07:52 AM
We know who has blood on their hands ... PTP ? Now the Gov't will say he dies due to political violence and offer up 7.5 million
Discussion 6 : 04/12/2013 at 06:42 AM
Do not blame others but yourself for corruption.....corruption starts from the top all the way to the bottom levels. Before blaming others, look around at yourself first....are you clean enough? Is your sock smelling? Are you perfect? Have you cheaten your wife or your husband? Those who come out and complain are the ones who committed crimes or corruptions.....you, yourself.
Discussion 7 : 04/12/2013 at 02:31 AM
Weren't you the one calling for all the demonstrators to be executed a couple of days ago. What hypocrisy. .
Discussion 8 : 04/12/2013 at 01:17 AM
Yet another Shinawatra with the blood of the Thai people on their hands. But at least she was "democratically elected."
Discussion 9 : 04/12/2013 at 12:58 AM
“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” - Captain G. M. Gilbert
Discussion 10 : 04/12/2013 at 12:53 AM
@Somchai totally difference Suthep, not elect.The other legitimately elected I believe that they came to power through the ballot box and the people voted them term in the office. They should serve out the term and be removed by the ballot box if that is the will of the people and another candidate can win more votes. Democracy can be possible by any other means.
Discussion 11 : 04/12/2013 at 12:24 AM
So, Ram students prove that education of dubious merit does nothing to improve a person's moral growth. But then, the Isan people who are the backbone of the Thai nation have always shown themselves morally superior to the educated pale-faces of Bangkok, who use their education to manipulate, to scam and to suppress morally decency along with democracy. Shame on the "educated" killers of this young man. And more shame on Suthep, Thaksin, and the nastier types lurking behind their showy degrees and gaudy attire of sham respectability.
Discussion 12 : 03/12/2013 at 11:55 PM
Thaibone, oldexp and others who express disgust at Thaksin for sending a wreath; I suspect that if he had not sent anything you would just as easily curse him for showing callous indifference.
Discussion 13 : 03/12/2013 at 11:50 PM
when will dsi issue murder charges against the fugitive's little sister?
Discussion 14 : 03/12/2013 at 11:41 PM
He got paid .
Discussion 15 : 03/12/2013 at 10:59 PM
The country is run by a convicted criminal who ran in the elections but wasn't on the ballot. If that's what you call democracy, and insist chaos will break out if it's "removed," we're going to have a lot of problems from here on in. The rest of the country that is growing up politically cannot except the cartoonish corruption, incompetence, nepotism, and wrecking-ball abandon of the Shinawatra and this thing they call "democracy."
Discussion 16 : 03/12/2013 at 10:44 PM
perhaps because that was the plan, to put them right in the middle of the South's main area, you think ???
Discussion 17 : 03/12/2013 at 10:40 PM
@Bonzo please being respectful the dead are cannot fight back.
Discussion 18 : 03/12/2013 at 10:37 PM
Once again, they are paid to come to right in the middle of the South's main area, in the center of a University above all, paid, armed and encouraged to inflict harm on the people in the area, and now they are martyrs in Taksin's Army of pillage and greed, seriously ???
Discussion 19 : 03/12/2013 at 09:56 PM
This is so sad. God bless this young soldier from Issan who would die for his country but still defend his roots.Shame on the posters who seek political gain. I live in Issan, have a Thai wife and Thai daughter and have a Thai daughter in law in my home country with my son. I love Issan folk and many of them are down in Bangkok wearing black shirts. Bless them for they know not what they do. Thank god the Thai army now say that they will bring back the rule of law. Remove democracy and civil unrest will result in a long and sustained conflict between both sides. The rule of law must be respected.Sleep well soldier,
Discussion 20 : 03/12/2013 at 09:54 PM
What about the other 3? Are they not humans too? Are they to be treated differently just because they are of a different political divide?
Discussion 21 : 03/12/2013 at 09:52 PM
Everybody know that the Red Shirts are kept into the stadium for not have fighting between the groups. Why are the yellow shirt there at all?
Discussion 22 : 03/12/2013 at 09:51 PM
So, not quite the outcome Jatuporn predicted after all?
Discussion 23 : 03/12/2013 at 09:50 PM
"Most of the red-shirts were actually trapped inside the stadium because missiles and gunshots were threatening them all night. Many ran out of water and just waited desperately for sunrise," What a total crock.
Discussion 24 : 03/12/2013 at 09:47 PM
Thaksin sent a wreath? Shameless is as shameless does.
Discussion 25 : 03/12/2013 at 09:47 PM
sick.. a man dies for thaksin's greed and thaksin sends funeral flowers.... what a deal...
Discussion 26 : 03/12/2013 at 09:41 PM
The Redshirts died for the vanity and greed of a megalomaniac!
Discussion 27 : 03/12/2013 at 09:41 PM
Thaksin. Does it make you happy to send wreaths to funerals?
Discussion 28 : 03/12/2013 at 09:40 PM
Red Shirt Fighter or Red Shirt Guard. What's the difference? And "Of course, they did fire gunshots and slingshots in exchange with the student fighters," said the witness". Of course??? And "It was not the red-shirts who went after the students but it was the other way round". Isn't that always the case,according to red shirts themselves? Why did they come to the stadium armed with guns in the first place? Sorry,but I have no sympathy for these "peaceful red shirt protesters". They got what they aimed to give others. Injury and death.
Discussion 29 : 03/12/2013 at 09:23 PM
You die you become hero that is good but still there won't be peace even you die so why die for nothing.
Discussion 30 : 03/12/2013 at 09:16 PM
This for sure is a one sided option of what happened, my son in law brother was on the campus whilst 7 or 8 gunmen in side the university grounds were taken pot shots at the students frightened to come outside. Red shirts inside a football stadium frightened from what another white lie I expert. Pass the buck every time
Discussion 31 : 03/12/2013 at 09:14 PM
Incredible. The family of one young man who was killed has asked for privacy and that this not be politicized, while another has become a political statement. RIP to both young men, but please leave the politics out of it.
Discussion 32 : 03/12/2013 at 09:09 PM
The ones to blame are the red captains like Weng or Nattuwut and especially Thaksin for funding the bussing in of people to confront their opponents.

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