Red Shirt protests in Thailand

Alex Ringis in Australia has been observing coverage of the "Red Shirt" protests in Thailand in recent days. Word on the street was that the anti-government protesters mixed up many tons of fish sauce (a stinky fermented condiment, like soy sauce only fishy-foul) and human feces as a sort of homemade non-lethal weapon. "Yep, fish sauce and SHIT. Anybody who gets in their way will have that lovely concoction hurled at them." Alex sends an update today:

Our friends in Bangkok have said they're staying indoors and out of the way, as moving around in the city at this stage is pretty pointless, and nobody wants to catch any stray bullets, heaven forbid. Local Bangkokers at this stage seem to just be pretty bloody annoyed that a bunch of country bumpkins have rolled in and stopped them from going about their daily business, at least at this stage.

Today the Red Shirts gathered outside the 11th Infantry Regiment's army base in Bangkok - said to be where PM Abhisit Vejajiva was holding up - he left via helicopter not long after they arrived. Interesting trivia is that the Military's way of dealing with them was playing them I'saan music over loudhailers, and it was also reported that they even addressed the crowd as "brothers and sisters", speaking in I'saan.

What's transpiring is very interesting - the Red Shirts clearly want some kind of a confrontation, or violence, to prove that the "evil" government intends to repress and harm them. But so far, the Military and the government have been on their best behaviour.

The question remains, what will the extreme elements within the red shirts (who were said to have started the violence in April 09's protests) do when they realise that the Military is not going to fire the first shot? Latest reports have the Red Shirts saying that Government Ministers will have to "Walk across one thousand liters of blood" to get to work at government house tomorrow - so it remains to be seen what they mean by that. Today news that four M-79 grenades were fired into a military batallion outside the State TV headquarters, and STILL no military crackdown. This is incredible and unprecedented - the army are quite obviously on their best behaviour. The Bangkok Post reports that arrests have been made in connection with the case. So far, our direct sources in Bangkok seem to be the best source of information. The Nation and The Bangkok Post (the two main English Dailies) are respectively suspiciously quiet, and suspiciously biased, so I'm thinking there's multiple gag orders in play, though I do get some decent tidbids now and then from my favorite Bangkok blog - 2bangkok.com The rumour at present is that Thaksin Shinawatra is in Montenegro - both Germany and the UK have said that they would not accept him, and if he was recognised in their country, he would be detained. The man is literally on the run, as it were.

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 - in any case, they are covering the story closely, and it's been on the front page for over 12 hours.

Also - I watched a video of a Red Shirt speaker ("Arisman") in an upcountry pep rally ranting against the government last night. I won't bother posting the link here - it's all in Thai and there's no subtitles, but in a nutshell, the notable talking points were some bizarre conspiracy theories about the government involving bio-weapons, and more interestingly, he was inciting red shirters and saying that if the government did not give into their demands, that they would "wipe off the face of Thailand" all the governments "sensitive sites", including Siriraj hospital. Siriraj hospital is where the ailing King Bhumipol Adulyadej is and has been treated for many months. Yes, they are "peaceful" protesters, apparently.

Let's hope that tomorrow is as peaceful as Sunday turned out to be.

An oldie, but relevant : this was me rather tipsily interviewing some people about the Red Vs Yellow situation in Thailand, back in May last year. FYI, this guy is a TYPICAL "Red Shirter" - lower class, menial laborer - lovely guy. I often joke with friends that if they just instituted a minimum wage in Bangkok, this entire political mess would go away overnight. But sadly, it's true.

And another video: First Civilian victim of a "Red Shirt" Protestor. FYI the cameraman is shouting "POLICE! POLICE!", and when the Police enter they shout "STOP, STOP NOW PLEASE, STOP!"

Video of Red Shirt operatives handing out money to protesters. It should be noted that a) The guy handing out the money has a literal WAD of 1000 Baht notes (1000 THB = roughly AU$33 - enough to eat in Bangkok for over a month) and b) The guy on the loudhailer appears to be shouting in either Lao, or Isan - two dialects not native to Bangkok - probably due to the large number of "up country" people who have been bussed in for the protests.

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