(from the Bangkok Post, "Where lies the truth amid the mendacity?" May 3, 2010)
by Philip J Cunningham
I watch the unfolding of massive street protests in Bangkok from a geographic distance, but not without emotional identification as I work from a library, putting the finishing touches on a paperback version of a book about the Tiananmen student protests of 1989.
Flamboyant Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol has compared the red shirts to the students at Tiananmen, one of many careless comments that serves to obscure rather than illuminate what is really motivating the protesters.
Suffice to say the Beijing students, provocative though they were, relied entirely on peaceful expression and carried no weapons --not slingshots, not M79 grenades, not spears, not clubs-- and though agents provocateurs did appear as if from nowhere during the orgy of violence of the June 4 crackdown itself, there were no black-clad Ninja hiding behind civilian shields, aiming their guns and rifles at military targets.
It's a terrible challenge to understand what's happening on the streets of Bangkok, and there's scant comfort in noting that almost no observer, whether on the scene, in the academy, in the newsroom or barracks or halls of governance seems to have a clear grasp of what's going on either.
Impatience for a crackdown is palpable, though there is still a chance for patient, peaceful measures to work. A bloodbath cannot be entirely discounted, especially if the military acts peremptorily in reaction to perceived divisions within its ranks or simply by being goaded into a merciless show of force.
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