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Black May, or Bloody May ( th, พฤษภาทมิฬ; ), is a common name for the 17–20 May 1992 popular protest in
Bangkok Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep. The city occupies in the Chao Phraya River delta in central Thailand and has an estimated population of 10.539 mi ...
against the government of General
Suchinda Kraprayoon
Suchinda Kraprayoon
and the military crackdown that followed. Up to 200,000 people demonstrated in central Bangkok at the height of the protests. The military crackdown resulted in 52 government-confirmed deaths, hundreds of injuries including journalists, over 3,500 arrests, hundreds of disappearances, and eyewitness reports of a truck filled with bodies leaving the city. Many of those arrested are alleged to have been tortured.


Background

On 23 February 1991, Army Commander overthrew the democratically elected but openly corrupt government of
Chatichai Choonhavan Chatichai Choonhavan ( th, ชาติชาย ชุณหะวัณ, , ; 5 April 1920 – 6 May 1998) was a Thai army officer, diplomat and politician. From 1986 to 1991, he was the chairman of the Thai Nation Party and served as the Prime ...
. The coup-makers, who called themselves the
National Peace Keeping Council The National Peace Keeping Council (NPKC) th, คณะรักษาความสงบเรียบร้อยแห่งชาติ) was the name assumed by a Thai military junta that overthrew the elected civilian government of Chaticha ...
(NPKC), appointed
Anand Panyarachun Anand Panyarachun ( th, อานันท์ ปันยารชุน, , ; born 9 August 1932) was Thailand's Prime Minister twice: once in 1991–1992 and again during the latter half of 1992. He was effective in initiating economic and poli ...

Anand Panyarachun
as
prime minister#REDIRECT Prime minister#REDIRECT Prime minister {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
. Anand's interim government promulgated a new
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these principl ...
and scheduled
parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state (or subordinate entity) where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typi ...
elections for 22 March 1992. A government coalition with 55% of the lower house was formed and appointed General Suchinda as prime minister. Massive public protests immediately followed. On 9 May, Suchinda responded by saying he would support a constitutional amendment making individuals who had not been elected to parliament ineligible for the premiership. Tensions dissipated, but the truce was short-lived.


Popular protests

On 17 May 1992 the two leading government parties announced that although they supported the constitutional amendment, they also favoured transitional clauses that would permit Suchinda to serve as prime minister for the term of the parliament. It became clear the government parties would not honour their word, and plans went ahead for a strike on Sunday, 17 May.


17 May

Obviously concerned about the people's mounting anger, the interior minister ordered provincial governors to prevent people from travelling to Bangkok to join the rally. Suchinda threatened to sack the governor of Bangkok for allegedly assisting the anti-government rallies of the previous week, while the army hastily arranged a competing "Anti-Drought Musical Festival" to be held at the Army Auditorium. Radio stations were banned from playing recordings by several popular singers who had voiced their support for the demonstrations. Nevertheless, the rally was the biggest since the downfall of the Thanom regime in October 1973. At its peak, 200,000 people filled
Sanam Luang Sanam Luang ( th, สนามหลวง, ; lit: 'royal turf') is a open field and public square in front of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand. Sanam Luang is in the Phra Nakhon District, the historic center of Bangkok. In t ...
, overflowing onto the encircling streets. At about 20:30,
Chamlong Srimuang Chamlong Srimuang ( th, จำลอง ศรีเมือง, born 5 July 1935) is a Thai activist and former politician. A former general, he was a leader of the "Young Turks" military clique, founded and led the Palang Dharma Party, served f ...
,
Sudarat Keyuraphan Sudarat Keyuraphan ( th, สุดารัตน์ เกยุราพันธุ์, ) is a Thai politician and former chairwoman of Pheu Thai Party's strategic committee. She held various positions in the cabinet and served multiple terms ...
, and Dr. San Hatthirat led the protesters on a two-kilometre march to the Government House of Thailand, Government House to demand Suchinda's resignation. As they reached the intersection of Rachadamnoen and Rachadamnoen Nok Avenues, they were halted at Phan Fa Bridge, which had been barricaded with razor wire by the police. At 23:00 a group of demonstrators attempted to break through the barricade, but were repulsed by water cannons from four fire trucks blocking the way. The protesters then tried to commandeer one of the fire trucks, but were beaten back by riot police armed with batons. Protesters replied with stones and Molotov cocktails. Chamlong used a loudspeaker to urge the marchers not to attack the police, but his words were ignored. In this initial clash, about 100 protesters and 21 policemen were injured.


18 May

By midnight two fire engines had been set on fire, and the situation was spiralling out of control. Some 700 troops had been called in and the fighting fanned out from Phan Fa Bridge. At 00:30 Suchinda declared a state of emergency, making gatherings of more than ten persons illegal. The government urged people to go home. Hospitals in the area were already receiving the injured, including four with gunshot wounds who died that night. Chamlong remained near Phan Fa Bridge and nearby Democracy Monument (Bangkok), Democracy Monument. At about 04:00, soldiers and Border Patrol Police threatened the nearly 40,000 protesters after that soldiers firing M16 rifles into the air. An hour and a half later, they began firing again. By the morning, the army brought in more troops, and crowds grew larger in other sections of the city. Early on the afternoon of 18 May, Suchinda publicly accused Chamlong of fomenting violence and defended the government's use of force. Shortly thereafter, troops firing continuously in the air moved in to surround Chamlong. He was handcuffed and arrested. However, the crowds still did not disperse, and violence escalated. When government troops secured the area around Phan Fa Bridge and Democracy Monument, protests shifted to Ramkhamhaeng University in the east of the city. By the evening of 19 May, about 50,000 people had gathered there.


Royal intervention

Early on the morning of 20 May, Princess Sirindhorn addressed the country on television, calling for an end to the violence. Her appeal was rebroadcast throughout the day. That evening, her brother, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, broadcast a similar appeal. Finally, at 21:30, a television broadcast of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Suchinda, and Chamlong was shown, in which the King demanded that the two men put an end to their confrontation and work together through parliamentary procedures. In the broadcast, the King addressed the two generals:
The Nation belongs to everyone, not one or two specific people. The problems exist because we don't talk to each other and resolve them together. The problems arise from 'bloodthirstiness'. People can lose their minds when they resort to violence. Eventually, they don't know why they fight each other and what the problems they need to resolve are. They merely know that they must overcome each other and they must be the only winner. This no way leads to victory, but only danger. There will only be losers, only the losers. Those who confront each other will all be the losers. And the loser of the losers will be the Nation.... For what purpose are you telling yourself that you're the winner when you're standing upon the ruins and debris?
Suchinda then released Chamlong and announced an amnesty for protesters. He also agreed to support an amendment requiring the prime minister to be elected. Chamlong asked the demonstrators to disperse, which they did. On 24 May 1992, Suchinda resigned as Prime Minister of Thailand.


Press censorship

The front page of the ''International Herald Tribunes 20 May 1992 issue was blacked out with felt tip pen, as was an editorial of the ''Bangkok Post'' of the same date, though other articles relating to the demonstrations remained untouched. The English-language newspaper ''The Nation (Thailand), The Nation'' and two Thai-language newspapers were shut down on 21 May though the order was rescinded a few hours later.


Aftermath

The violence resulted in 39 reported deaths, hundreds of injuries, and many disappearances. Security forces "...intentionally fired on and killed many unarmed demonstrators and inflicted savage and gratuitous beating on hundreds of others." Over 3,500 people were arrested. A House of Representatives Special Committee and a fact-finding committee led by Sophon Rattanakorn shared the same conclusion: the government of General Suchinda used excessive force to crack down on the rally. Some facts from the investigation, such as names of military officers and military units responsible for rounding up, killing, and torturing of protesters were revealed to the public. It is believed these facts were recorded in the report of the Ministry of Defense (Thailand), Ministry of Defense's Fact Finding Committee led by General Pichit Kullawanit, but it is still kept from the Thai public. The military constitution of 1992 remained in place until 1997, when a replacement was drafted and promulgated. Chamlong later apologized for his role in the events: "I wanted a peaceful rally," he said. "I can't deny some responsibility for the damage and loss of life. I feel deeply sorry for those families whose members were killed in the incident, for those people who were injured and their families." Nevertheless, he noted, "We were right in what we have done." He then retired from politics, eventually to return during the protests against the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Suchinda was later appointed chairman of Telecom Asia (today known as True Corporation), a company which received a concession to install two million telephone lines in Bangkok during the Anand government. Anand later became Chairman of Saha-Union Group, which had received an independent power producer concession during his government.


See also

*The 2010 Thai military crackdown dubbed "Savage May" by Thai media.


References


Further reading

* * *


External links


Black May 1992
— a brief timeline of Black May

* Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization

* Physicians for Human Rights

{{History of Thailand since 1973 Rebellions in Thailand 1992 in Thailand 1992 protests 1992 riots Massacres in Thailand Riots and civil disorder in Thailand 1990s in Thailand Protests in Thailand May 1992 events in Asia Mass murder in 1992