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  • » 04/26/2010, 00.00

    THAILAND

    Yellow Shirts call for martial law as a Catholic colonel is buried

    Weena Kowitwanij

    To pro-government movement says it will defend the country against the Red Shirts. Prime Minister Abhisit rejects opposition proposal for elections in three months time. AsiaNews remembers Christopher Romklao Thuwatham, a 44-year-old army colonel, who died during violent clashes in the capital on 10 April.
    Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a group that brought to power current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have taken to the streets. Known also as the Yellow Shirts, the movement has called for martial law and an end to demonstrations by the ‘red-shirt’ opposition, pledging action to defend the country if the authorities fail to put a stop to red-shirt protests. For its part, the Thai government has rejected a proposal by the Red Shirts to dissolve parliament in 30 days and hold elections in three months. The Red Shirts, who are supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, plan to bring their protest action to other Thai cities. Meanwhile, they have begun blocking roads around the capital to prevent police convoys from entering the capital.

    Tensions in the capital are running high. A grenade that exploded today in front of the private residence of the former prime minister is but the latest in a series of violent actions, the worst in several decades, which have occurred in the past few weeks. So far, the violence has left 26 people dead and about a thousand injured. One of the victims was Colonel Christopher Romklao Thuwatham, a Catholic, who was buried last Friday. Here are the details of the funeral service.

    Mgr Joseph Chusak Sirisuth, bishop of the diocese of Nakhon Ratchasima, returned to his native province of Ratchaburi to celebrate the funeral service. Colonel Christopher Romklao Thuwatham (pictured) was Deputy Chief of Staff of the Second Infantry Regiment in charge of the King’s protection. He died, shot in the back, on 10 April in Bangkok during clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police.

    Since he died on duty, the King promoted the colonel to rank of general. The 44-year-old Catholic, who was married to a Buddhist woman, was buried on his birthday, 23 April. Fellow alumni from Saint Gabriel College, the school he attended before joining the military, used the occasion to celebrate his life. They marked his birthday with a cake at his graveside, sang college songs and reminisced about “the great times” they had together.

    About 500 people, Catholic and non-Catholic, attended the funeral Mass. The body was laid to rest in the cemetery of Santikham, in Samphran District (Nakhon Pathos province) some 30 kilometres from Bangkok. More than 2,000 people took part in the service, including Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders as well as government officials.

    The dead officer’s mother, Ms Watcharee, spoke about her son. “On 23 April of this year he would have been 44-year-old. We were planning to celebrate his birthday at home, the whole family; instead, we are gathered here to bury him.”

    A few hours before his death on 10 April, the colonel called his mother by phone. “Today I need your prayers and meditations more than ever because I am on an important mission.”

    The colonel’s wife Nicha Thuwatham also spoke about him, saying, “His love fulfilled my entire life.”

    During the homily, Fr John Baptist Vivat Praesiri praised his courage and determination. He pointed out how he made the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep the country at peace.

    It is therefore fitting that we should conclude with Colonel Romklao Thuwatham’s own words. In 1994, he said, “the life of a soldier is not about fulfilling a task in exchange for a salary, a career or such like. All soldiers are proud to sacrifice themselves and their lives for the good of the nation, something which very few can actually do.”

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    See also

    26/05/2010 THAILAND
    In Bangkok, thousands pray for peace
    Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus gather at dawn at ten points in the capital to renew an appeal for reconciliation. Analysts say divisions are deep; only major socio-political reforms can re-unify the country. The red shirts’ surrender does not mean peace.

    20/05/2010 THAILAND
    Three-night curfew in Bangkok as fear of more violence lingers
    The authorities have cleared the area occupied by the red-shirts. Some opposition leaders appeal for peace after surrendering to police. About 35 buildings were set on fire in the Thai capital, including the stock exchange. Yesterday’s clashes left 14 people dead. Overall, 82 people lost their lives since the protest began.

    14/05/2010 THAILAND
    Army begins final offensive against demonstrators in Bangkok, so far one dead, 12 wounded
    The army is trying to clear the area under red-shirt control. Three reporters are wounded during the clashes. Demonstrators set bus and tyres on fire. Two army vehicles are torched. Suspended army officer who backed protesters is in come after being hit by a sniper. ACHR director slams the Thai government for the violence.

    13/05/2010 THAILAND
    Army surrounding red shirts as crisis hits the stock market
    The authorities are getting ready for a showdown with demonstrators who vow to fight on. Protest leader says, “We will fight with our bare hands." Thai prime minister withdraws offer to hold elections on 14 November, pledges “to restore normalcy as soon as possible.” Markets are down as fears grow with regard to tourism.

    11/05/2010 INDIA – THAILAND
    Forty-three Asian NGOs call for a “peaceful solution” to Thailand’s political crisis
    Demonstrators want to see Thailand’s deputy prime minister charged for his alleged role in the 10 April violence. The government responds saying protesters’ demands are not clear. A group of Asian NGOs sends a letter to the Thai Foreign Ministry, expressing their “concern” for the situation. An Indian activist urges the parties to respect international legal standards.



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