Thailand: ICRC ready to act
Violence in Bangkok has left many dead or injured. While still unable to enter the affected parts of the city, the ICRC stands ready to facilitate medical care and act as a neutral intermediary. Christian Brunner heads the ICRC's delegation in Bangkok. As he explains, the ICRC is calling on all sides to observe humanitarian standards and to show respect for life.
The situation on the ground remains tense and volatile. Violence is causing death and injury in various parts of the city. People fear for their safety. Further violence could lead to more casualties, especially if a major crackdown occurs at the rally site, where thousands of people are still gathering.
What have you been able to do so far?
The ICRC has contacted both sides in order to gain access to the areas affected by the violence. If the two sides agree, the ICRC can act as a neutral intermediary to help facilitate access to medical care for those who need it most and we can propose solutions to humanitarian problems on the ground. We are still discussing this with the authorities. As a neutral, independent and impartial organization, the ICRC can help people in such a volatile situation and can provide support, as long as both sides agree.
We call on both the demonstrators and the authorities to respect life, physical well-being and human dignity at all times.
Security forces must apply international standards governing the use of force in their efforts to restore law and order. They may only use firearms under strict conditions, when absolutely necessary, in particular for self defence or to prevent an especially serious crime involving grave threat to life. Demonstrators must comply with the humanitarian principles set out in international standards and integrated in Thai law. In particular, they must respect health-care providers and private property.
Have you been able to assess the needs on the ground?
Our teams have not yet had access to areas directly affected by the violence. They have therefore been unable to assess the prevailing situation or gather first-hand information. This assessment and information are essential to the planning of an appropriate humanitarian response to any urgent needs that may arise. The ICRC is particularly concerned about the situation of women and children who are still in the protest area.
Is Bangkok not well-equipped to deal with humanitarian needs arising from the crisis?
Bangkok has good medical facilities, with well-trained personnel. However, in such tense situations the real challenge is to ensure that people injured by violence actually have access to treatment, and quickly. The ICRC has prepared stocks of emergency medical supplies, which are available to the Thai Red Cross and other medical facilities.
The ICRC calls for health workers to have unhindered access to the areas most affected by the violence, as their essential work can make the difference between life and death. Medical and health personnel including those of the Thai Red Cross, medical units and vehicles used as ambulances must all be allowed to operate freely.
Is it true that several protesters were arrested yesterday as they left the rally site in response to the government's demands?
According to the latest media reports, tens of people have indeed been arrested. If this proves to be the case, the ICRC stands ready to visit these people in custody. At this stage, the ICRC's main concern is that the dignity and physical well-being of people in custody be respected. People deprived of their freedom must be allowed to maintain or re-establish contact with their families. All over the world, the ICRC visits detainees to assess their treatment and conditions of detention, sharing its recommendations with the detaining authorities in strict confidence.
Can the ICRC help foreigners stranded in Bangkok?
The ICRC can help those foreigners stranded in Bangkok who are in a particularly vulnerable position, especially those whose countries have no diplomatic repr esentation there. We can liaise with their embassies or countries to make sure they receive the documents they need in order to get home.