A PEOPLE UNITED
The next several days were, at the same time, Thailand's finest hour and most horrifying agony. They were like those of October 1973 and October 1976 rolled into one, but larger. Those days of massive demonstrations witnessed stirring acts of bravery and grit in the cause of human freedom as well as acts of extreme cruelty and provocation on the part of the military. The outcome was at first indecisive, even when King Bhumiphol's intervention stopped the killing and beating of unarmed civilians by brutal soldiers, and led to the resignation of General Suchinda Kraprayoon as prime minister. The military figures responsible for mindless violence were not exiled as in 1973, nor did they emerge triumphant as in 1976. But the values of nation, religion, and monarchy that define Thailand passed invisibly from the custody of the generals to the care of the people. As Seni Pramoj said gently after the generals used the guns in their hands, it was "unprecedented that the people are so united" against the military and for democracy.
What happened in Bangkok on May 17 to 21, 1992, not only staggered Thais throughout the country but, for the first time, engaged people in large numbers all over the world in Thailand's struggle for democracy. Television viewers outside Thailand actually saw more of these vivid events as they happened than did the Thais, who were shocked a second time when pirated videotapes of foreign TV reports verifying the shooting and kicking of helpless prodemocracy demonstrators by troops were shown in Bangkok days later. Apart from the killing, the generals' inept manipulation of what appeared on people's television screens conclusively turned Thais against the military. Whether in living color or black-and-white newspaper photos or firsthand glimpses of callousness and death, the images will profoundly affect Thai thinking and conduct for years.
Ranks of riot police with plastic shields, and combat troops with M-16 automatic rifles facing countless Thais defiant in their determi