By THE IRRAWADDY
Burmese exiles in Thailand were exceptionally keen observers of the events that shook the country in the overheated days and nights of the country’s Songkran festival. Many saw the way the crisis was handled by the Bangkok government as confirmation that democracy and respect for fundamental human rights were secure in Thailand.
“Even though Thailand has some weaknesses in democracy building, it is more advanced than other Southeast Asian nations,” said Zin Linn of the Burmese Media Association, who lives in Bangkok.
Many Burmese deplored the use of violence by the red-shirted anti-government protesters, who disrupted a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministers in Pattaya and then ran wild in Bangkok.
Kyaw Lin Oo, a student at Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng University, was one who thought the protesters had overstepped the mark and caused harm to uninvolved people.
Zaw Min, a Burmese activist and longtime resident in Thailand, agreed. “Everybody has a right to protest peacefully, but has no right to hurt other ordinary people,” he said.
Two people died in clashes between protesters and Bangkok residents enraged at their violent disruption. More than 100 people were wounded in the street battles between red-shirt demonstrators and soldiers. Thai army spokesman said troops fired blanks into the crowds and live shots overhead.
While the world spotlight fell for several days on the drama playing out in Thailand, the official media in Burma completely ignored the events. The Burmese people were again dependent on outside sources for news on the shattering events occurring just beyond their country’s borders.