Red Shirt protests in Thailand

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33 Responses to “Red Shirt protests in Thailand”

  1. MacD says:

    One of the ways Thaksin made money was, in exactly the way Anon stated, through the aforementioned airport. It was a multimillion (if not billion) dollar construction, way overbudget and overpriced for what it is (although it is pretty :) ) and paid for with public money awarded to Thaksin’s friends.

    This also explains why last time the airport was a target for the (peacefull, very polite) yellowshirts; a very symbolic target.

    Not much I can add to what Anon above says, except that Thailand, whilst filled with friendly, polite people (my favourite asian country, really) is immensely corrupt. To get anything done, money has to change hands.

    The lotteries are one interesting example: everyone pays to play, and that in a country where you can get locked up for gambling in a friendly poker game. And the money ends up … well, exactly where you think it does.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And finally, my personal feeling is that the “mainstream media” organisation that seems to be offering the absolute best coverage on the situation so far is – surprise surprise – Al Jazzeera’s English service. Im guessing their primary interest is based on the fact that Thaksin Shinawatra was a resident of Dubai for the past twelve months or so

    I doubt it’s anything to do with that (AJ isn’t Dubai based for a start), they are an international news channel and not one that only covers the Middle East. They do tend to cover lots of news stories that no-one else is, especially in Africa and the Far East… that’s their main selling point

  3. jimboo says:

    I am an ex-pat living in Bangkok. Mondays, MOST Thais wear yellow shirts to honor their much-beloved King. The Red Shirts are, as the article says, mostly from Issan — which is a long way from Bangkok. It is the far east, poorest district of the Kingdom. The former, deposed Prime Minister Thaksin was very popular with farmers because he arranged for large numbers of low-cost loans for farmers. He was also incredibly corrupt (ref: the new airport land deals). He never had majority support in the city of Bangkok. But while 25% of all Thais live in Bangkok, it is still an agrarian society — most are farmers. Very few of the Red Shirts are educated, as the video shows. The latest reason for the unrest is because two weeks ago, the Thai Supreme Court seized 46 billion baht (about 1.5 billion USD) from the Thaksin estate. At one time, the Thaksin family owned the phone company, several banks, and (literally) 10% of all the stocks traded on the local exchange. He was deposed after selling the phone company AIS to a Singapore group for more than a billion USD and paying ZERO taxes on the sale — and before anyone noticed that military telephone calls were routed through what then became a foreign-owned company (!). When he next left the country, he was not allowed back in and the courts have been taking what remains of his fortune back, piece-meal. The only people who miss Thaksin are the rural folk. The REAL problem here will come when the ailing King passes away; the transition is not going to go smoothly. (I’ve lived here ten years, I’ll probably leave then.)

  4. Birdseed says:

    Question: Based on the coverage I’ve read, the “red shirts” have all the hallmarks of what in the west would be a left-wing movement – marginalised, working-class, pro-social reform, pro-economic reform – while the yellow shirts seem to likewise have the attributes of a right-wing movement – comfortably elite, conservative, anti-reform.

    Yet in the coverage I’ve never seen the words “left” and “right” used about the groups. Am I reading it wrong?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because red and right can’t apply here.
      Yellow and Red express opinions that can be related to both left and right.

      Yellows support the “old elite”. The statu quo.
      More interestingly, the quite poor Red support outsed prime minister Taksin, a super rich businessman who represents the “wannabe” new elite.

      Meanwhile, most of the Thai people don’t want to take side.

      What is saddening is that the whole situation comes from the culture and education of Thai people. For more than 50 years, the elite managed to use schools and media as brainwashing tools to keep the population very docile and resignated.
      I teach in thai schools and I see it everyday: “this is the way it is, be happy with what you have and don’t cause trouble”.
      As a result, everyone shows a lot of respect for the “phuyai”, term that designate the upper part of the population. It doesn’t bother anyone that super rich stars still appear in new TV commerecials every weeks, even for things like maxipads and mosquito repellent.

      Where Taksin was clever, is that he decided to use this brainwashing to create a movement of followers. He dropped few hundred bahts here and there, added some populist measures and bingo.

      What we see here are slaves fighting each other for their masters… Yellow or red, it doesn’t matter, because in the end, and for half a century already, those who really handle this puppet show are wearing khaki.

      I work in front of governement house. Have to go through the mob crowd twice a day to reach my workplace. First came the yellows, then the red, then red again now… what’s clearly missing for both sides is simply a manifesto.

    • Boba Fett Diop says:

      I believe the Red Shirts are supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former PM. He was certainly a populist, but not especially leftist.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        It’s sort of weirdly common that the most corrupt officials tend to attract vocal populist constituencies.

  5. Xenu says:

    Watch out Red Shirts, if you beam down you’re sure to be killed by aliens.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Something to investigate. Interesting video. Suspicious money being handed out to anti-government protestors. Not sure what’s for or it’s the payment to join protesting? Corruption?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afmrFcGHIIU

  7. ridgeback says:

    The comments so far seem to me to be gross simplifications of what is a very complicated situation in Thailand. There seems also to be an anti-red shirt slant, not to mention an anti-’country bumpkin’ bias. This is unfortunate.
    I would urge readers not to simplify what’s going on here- not reduce it to Thaksin vs. ‘Old’ Bangkok – since as anyone familiar with Thailand knows, things are far more subtle and the issues more divisive than just Thaksin and his money.
    One of the key issues on the table here, among many others, is the attempt to disenfranchise rural voters, on the basis that they are ‘too stupid to vote’. Some argue instead for senators to be appointed rather than elected. Other topics critical to Thailand’s political future are still not generally discussed because of the stark lese-majeste laws.
    For insightful background, diverse opinions, and knowledgeable discussion about Thailand’s situation, I would recommend as a starting point a website called the New Mandala: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/

  8. Anonymous says:

    I would not take BANGKOKPUNDit that seriously. New Mandala is much better.

    Rageltjie

    PS. google DR FEDERICO FERRARA and his missives on Thailand. I seem to remember that he has a book out by this title: “Thailand Unhinged”, quite appropriate.

    http://ap3.fas.nus.edu.sg/fass/polff/

  9. Anonymous says:

    Despite numbers falling short of the 1 million protesters wanted, tactics like those describe above seem to be proving powerful. Many are citing a lack of funds as the parties major down fall, including perspective from a protester who is just fighting for fairness: http://bit.ly/b1DcBV

  10. Anonymous says:

    Is it safe to travel Bangkok as a tourist this week?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Ridgeback, you really blew the lid off the Thailand situation thanks to your immense familiarity! It’s just shocking the amount of anti-bumpkin rhetoric in these comments!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Don’t diss the garum, please. You hipsters eat that stuff like it’s going out of style (which it isn’t, after 3000 years of yummy fish flavor). It’s in half your favorite Asian cuisine.

  13. Anonymous says:

    A lot of what’s coming out of Thailand seems to go surprisingly without comment. The world’s response to the the yellow shirt movement was surprisingly quiet given that they had, y’know, overthrown a democratically elected government, and held an airport full of people hostage.

    Quite frankly, in the face of that, I’d be expecting a more robust response than some stinky fish sauce.

  14. harrisben says:

    The red shirts suffer from a lack of focus and also their association with Thaksin.

    Yesterday they announced they would draw 10cc’s of blood from every protestor and throw it on the ground around parliament as a symbolic gesture. Obviously using actual blood isn’t very symbolic, but thinking has never been their strong point.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It is sometimes difficult for us as non-Thais to understand fully what is going on in Thai politics.

    If you take the simple view that the red shirts are merely a bunch of poor uneducated country bumpkins, in love with Thaksin and his “handouts”, then you are sorely mistaken: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2010/03/28276

    Interesting how the uneducated makes sure that their banners are both in Thai and English. Being able to speak English is a sign of a very good education for Thais. That is why the Oxford educated prime minister is such a hit with the ruling class. You can’t get more English than Oxford, hahaha.

    Here’s a few English language blogs on Thailand that does a good job of presenting what is going on:

    http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/
    http://www.prachatai.com/english/
    http://www.asiancorrespondent.com/bangkok-pundit-blog
    http://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/

    The last place from which I would gather any news about Thailand would be from The Nation or the Bangkok Post.

    You can also watch the Reds live at http://www.uddthailand.com/

    Thai TV is thoroughly government controlled, which by the way is showing hardly any coverage of what the BBC called the biggest gathering of protesters in over 30 years.

    Avail yourself.

    Regards,

    Rageltjie in Bangkok

  16. harrisben says:

    Also, Bangkok is 99% safe to travel in. Which is to say it’s business as usual.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you #19 for posting some more neutral links. I am travelling around the world, but have managed to be in Bangkok for both the yellow and the red protests. This weekend, the mood from the reds was jubilant and festive – more a celebration than a protest. Only at the 11th Regiment did the mood change to something more sombre. I jumped into part of the convoy that was headed there. You can see pictures here: http://bit.ly/a8ji3K

    It is business as usual today in Bangkok – schools are back in session and minus the main protest area (where reds are currently donating blood) traffic is the same as always in Bangkok (i.e. there’s lots of it!)

    As said above, a good neutral resource is Bangkok Pundit: http://www.asiancorrespondent.com/bangkok-pundit-blog, and on twitter @bangkokpundit.

    I’ve posted more pics on my twitter account (@legalnomads) and here http://bit.ly/bBh9l3 of the protests.
    -Jodi (from Legal Nomads)

  18. retiree says:

    Antinous. FYI the cabinet member is also the current PM”s cousin. Obviously you may have been sucked in. I hope you took the time to thoughtfully read it. There is quite a lot of undeniable history in what he says.

  19. RedShirt77 says:

    Who did what?

  20. Tailandia says:

    I was in their base camp yesterday and the atmosphere was *very* different from what it’s being described in major newspapers & TV. Even the police seemed to be relaxed.

    Here are some pictures I took. They a bit different from what you see on TV and the newspapers, isn’t it?

    http://www.destinotailandia.com/blog/las-manifestaciones-de-hoy-en-bangkok/

  21. ridgeback says:

    @harrisben #18
    I agree, the redshirts are pulled(often misrespresented?) everywhichway – as thaksinites, as socialists, as republicans…. the voices of rank-and-file people in the movement are hard to discern- and sometimes hard to interpret once they are heard, since it’s difficult to see the world through their eyes. It looks like many of the ‘red shirt’ senators, pheu thai party, are hedging their bets, i.e., not supplying the sort of backing the movement needs. Undercutting their own movement? Ouch. Like we really need another reason to be cynical about Thai politics!
    A lot of people who could potentially legitimate the movement -various academics, activists, etc – are reluctant to come out openly as ‘red shirt’ supporters precisely because it is so ill-defined. Many do however sympathize with the rank-and-file trying to protect what little political participation they have.
    To say that ‘thinking has never been their strong point’ seems a little harsh. Who exactly is ‘they’? What do you suppose they are thinking (or failing to think)? I find the blood thing pretty stomach-churning myself; maybe it’s even a biohazard. But it’s also a rather strong statement about enfranchisement and sovereignty, delivered in a way that demands attention – something most rank and file red shirts get precious little of in Thai politics.

  22. Anonymous says:

    #9, Thaksin is not living in exile in Cambodia (where I am currently living) although he has visited twice for only days at a time. He was named an economics adviser by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, but he is hardly meddling in Cambodian politics. He was made an adviser as a f**k-you to the current Thai government, who are taking a hard line on a border dispute with Cambodia.

  23. RedShirt77 says:

    Let me just say that I never fling human feces and although I am not the biggest fan of government, my user name is a refence to star treck security officers.

  24. harrisben says:

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. Painting the road red would have been symbolic, while doing it with real blood is about as un-symbolic as you can get :)

  25. retiree says:

    Seems to me many of you are really out of touch and have been sucked in by reading the Lame/Main Stream Media. Thai TV and Radio is owned by the Army and gov’t.

    Read http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/37278/the-challenge-of-building-unity-in-a-world-of-diversity
    in the bangkok Post for a very insightful view of what reallyis going on here and why.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      That’s an opinion piece written by a member of Shinawatra’s cabinet. Who were you saying had been sucked in?

  26. Anonymous says:

    It’s a very complicated political situation in Thailand, made more difficult by the appearance of a working class rebellion. I don’t claim to have all the facts, but it’s important to know that the Red Shirts are followers of Thaksin Shinawarta, the ousted mega-millionaire former Prime Minister. Thaksin now lives in exile in Cambodia (where he spends time meddling in Cambodian politics) following charges of corruption within his government related to illegally rewarding his own companies and those of his friends, and for selling off precious Thai resources to other countries – also for his own gain. He now pulls the strings on these protesters by literally paying them to protest (yes, they are receiving actual wages to appear at these protests far beyond their normal daily wage). He holds video conferences with the protesters encouraging them to violently overthrow the government so that he can return to reward them all. While many argue that he made great progress in improving health, education and infrastructure in rural Thailand, others will point out that these were very calculated moves to win large swaths of voters in areas far from view of his cynical political practices. It seems the Red Shirts, rather than freedom fighters, unwittingly support a political agenda that has no long-term solutions for their needs but sells off their land, resources and jobs to the highest bidder. It’s difficult to type one side as more or less similar to the American left and right, and really not constructive for understanding the tug of war between military, parliament, royals and the citizenry. That said, my tendency is to imagine Thaksin as the love-child of George Bush and Bill Gates.

  27. penguinchris says:

    I’m no expert on the situation, but having spent two months in Chiang Mai recently (August 09 and January this year), I have a few observations.

    Chiang Mai is in the northwest of Thailand, and is markedly different from Bangkok. The city itself is quite metropolitan and there is a decent size sprawl of suburban areas (though not anywhere near the size of Bangkok), but you very, very quickly enter into “country bumpkin” areas once you leave the city. The red shirts mostly come from the northeast, apparently, but Chiang Mai and the surrounding provinces have a similar ethnic makeup and culture.

    On three separate Saturdays, the red shirts set up a rally of sorts at Thae Pae Gate, which is a very well-traveled area of downtown Chiang Mai that anyone who has been there will be familiar with. On one of those occasions, I didn’t have much to do and spent the day wandering around the city. I went by the rally four or five times – they were there literally the entire day – and each time, there were at most three or four people sitting in the chairs that were set out. Even when no one was there, a guy wearing a red shirt was talking over the speakers, but it was obvious that there was little interest in the Red Shirts there.

    If you become familiar with Thai culture, though, it becomes obvious why – their cultural attitude towards most things is to basically avoid caring or getting riled up about anything. Hence it being necessary to pay people to join the protest.

    I am friends with several people in and around Chiang Mai, ranging from scientific colleagues – intellectual types at Chiang Mai University – to my girlfriend who is from Mae Hong Son near the border with Myanmar (in other words, a rural hill-tribe kind of region) and none of them care about the reds v. yellows stuff *at all*. I tried to get some insight about it from my friends at the university, and they didn’t know much more about it than I already did (granted we are scientists – geologists – not “political scientists” or anything like that, but still).

    There are obviously a lot of Thais who do care, but I don’t really think it’s any kind of “populist rising” – if it was, they wouldn’t have to pay people to join the protests.

    I’ll be spending a few more months in NW Thailand starting in June. I have no idea how this all will turn out, but I don’t expect it to end quickly or particularly smoothly; in any case it should be interesting. I doubt the action will spread beyond Bangkok, though.

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