A Soldier’s Story

This account of events around Ratchadamnoen and Khao San on the night of 10 April was given by a conscript in a phone call to his family. Soldiers have been told not to communicate with the media so this report must remain anonymous.

Approximately 50 draftees who had not finished basic training were ordered to put on riot gear at dusk on Saturday and were driven to the Ratchadamnoen area. We were not told in advance where we were going or what our objective was. We were equipped with rubber bullets but no gas masks. We had previously received some training in riot control and had manned checkpoints, but in general discipline and leadership required improvement and we were inexperienced.

We quickly found ourselves in a confused fight with the red shirts. We were instructed to fire rubber bullets at the legs of protestors, but were facing bricks, sticks and gunfire. Tear gas was making it difficult to see what was going on. It wasn’t like a video game. There were other units, some from other services, but we saw no coordination among them.

The non-commissioned officer in charge of us was injured and taken away and no one took over. Many of the draftees ran for safety, some leaving behind weapons and other equipment. I was helping to pull wounded comrades out of danger. There were some bad injuries and we thought some people were probably dead. It was a terrifying situation.

At one point I was overcome with tear gas. Red shirts took off my helmet and I never saw it again. They washed the tear gas off my face. I and 2 friends were now isolated and did not know where to go. We tried staying put but it got too dangerous, so we started moving about and got lost. After 3 hours, we met a policeman in the middle of the night who told us where our unit was.

We got about 3 hours sleep and were transported back to camp the following afternoon. Of the 50 who had gone out, only about 20 remained. Some must be in hospital with injuries, and probably many just ran for their lives.

We have decided, among the draftees, that we will not go out on missions like this. The officers say this too. We have been told by the commanding officer that we will not be asked to go out again.