Thailands2Faces – Red Dawn

(14 March 2010) It is hard to know what is going on in a town like Bangkok. Like everyone else, I was curious what was really going on with the Red Shirt rally. The tourism authority is saying everything is fine, but you should stay away from Sanam Luang, Khao San Road, and even Victory Monument. If you don’t mind knowing the news a day after it happens, then the Bangkok Post and Nation are great. 

 
After a hardy Shakshuka breakfast, a Moroccan dish of poached eggs in a red tomato sauce, I figured I should go bake outside in a sea of red shirts. I hopped on a cab and headed towards Democracy Monument to check out the action first hand.
 
Along the roads leading onto Ratchadamnoen, I noticed that the BMA recently planted red flowers on the sides of the road. Whether it was a seasonal choice, an aesthetic one, or even a political one, the flowers blended well into the scenery. While my cab was waiting at a light behind a military Hummer, the cabbie commented on the battle-dressed soldiers on the corner. “They look like Robo-Cop” he laughed. I kept thinking that they must be cooking in all that Kevlar. As we got closer to Ratchadamnoen, I saw more and more Red Shirts converging. In songthaews, crammed into taxis, on motorbikes, or just walking with red flags in hand they were all around.
 
 
I met a local journalist, my guide and translator for the day, at the McDonalds near Democracy Monument. An odd launching ground for a class struggle, but nonetheless a good place to grab a McChicken sandwich before the long day ahead. Inside, red shirt supports were enjoying their food while debating whether or not martial law had been imposed – a discussion not often heard in McDonalds.
 
Walking towards the main stage, we saw groups of people walking while others sought shade from the mid-day sun. There were signs in English (“Democracy Now”) and signs in Thai (“We will die for Democracy”). There were stalls selling red shirts, anti-government literature and CDs, and of course Pad Thai. 
 
 
At a booth handing out “No Violence” stickers I met Tok, a local Bangkokian who came out to show his support. “I don’t read the papers, they distort everything” he said. Tok gets most of his news online, including from Prachatai, which he finds more reliable. “They say [the elites] that these people [the Red Shirts] are violent” Tok said, “but they don’t understand and they don’t want to.” Tok came to see for himself and was surprised to see how peaceful the event was. With no visible police or military presence around, it did feel more like a carnival then an uprising.
 
 
I met a group of nurses and doctors volunteering at one of the many first aid stations along the protest route. They asked not to be identified since their hospitals told them not to help the Red Shirts. Nevertheless, they came anyways “to help the people, and because our hearts are Red.” 
 
People around me were eager to talk to a foreigner, and explain why they came out to protest. Red Shirt frustration with being misrepresented and vilified by the mainstream media was a reoccurring motif throughout the day. Nut, a Thai business-woman told me she came from the UK, where she lives, just to take part in the rally. Frustrated with the continued injustice in the Kingdom, she could stay away from her home no longer. 
 
We made it to the main stage, and with a little Farang magic made it into the backstage area. The journalist I was with pointed out that the Reds need media support much more than the Yellows did, and as a journalist it’s easier to cover the Red’s events. This proved true, and after signing up at the media desk, I had my “Press” tag and was on the main stage.
 
 
Definitely shy of a million protesters, there were several thousands cheering on Veera Musikapong, a protest leader. "We're demanding the government give up the administrative power by dissolving the Parliament and returning power to the people. We're giving the government 24 hours from now [to respond to our demand]" Veera told the roaring crowd. “There is no need for Martial law” Veera explained, “Just dissolve parliament.”
 
In the VIP section behind the main stage, I was able to have a conversation with Dr. Suda Rangkupan, an Assistant Professor from the Department of Linguistics, Chulakorn University. She came out today because she is bothered by the power-politics in her country. Dr. Suda views this event and the growing popularity of the Red Shirt movement as a continuation of the anti-Coup movement that began (this time around) in 2006. Back then it was only a handful of academics and social activists who saw the danger Thai democracy faced from the military and other “meddling elites”. Today, Dr. Suda noted, more people from wider segments of society realize the dangerous path Thai politics has taken since the 2006 Coup. She feels that the government has silenced many of these voices, using different laws to squash free speech and avoid a candid debate.
 
 
Dr. Suda explained that the core demand from this Red Shirt rally was the restoration of Democracy, specifically the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of new, free, and fair elections. She said that many people feel that the military, the courts, and the Yellow shirts have overturned the democratic choices made by the people in Thailand. When I asked about Thaksin’s future role of in Thai politics, Dr. Suda said it was not about Thaksin, it is about the people’s choice. She is tired of being told who the “good people” are – those worthy of leadership - and who are the “bad”. For Dr. Suda, it is about Thai people being able to choose for themselves. Who they choose doesn’t matter to her. What does matter is that the people are allowed to choose for themselves. 
 
While personally I am not a fan of Thaksin, or of the violence and corruption committed under his watch, I can’t help but agree with Dr. Suda. I didn’t like G.W. Bush either, and thought those who elected him to office (the second time at least) were wrong, but that’s democracy. After 18 military coups and one airport take-over, popular elections seem to be the reasonable mechanism to choose who governs. 
 

Comments

Dr. Suda views this event and

Dr. Suda views this event and the growing popularity of the Red Shirt movement as a continuation of the anti-Coup movement... then only a handful of academics and social activists who saw the danger Thai democracy faced from the military and other “meddling elites”. Today... more people from wider segments of society realize the dangerous path Thai politics has taken since the 2006 Coup... the government has silenced many of these voices, using different laws to squash free speech and avoid a candid debate... the core demand from this Red Shirt rally was the restoration of Democracy, specifically the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of new, free, and fair elections.

I love it! Quite reasonable stuff... but we do NOT read this in the MSM in Thailand!

Thanks for this

Thanks for this

This article the work of the

This article the work of the author's health. I have always followed this style of writing was sequel. I already saw the youtube video site video about it. also

Thank you to the article author.

The anti-military / elitist

The anti-military / elitist coup views of Dr. Suda and Co. are very sensible; after all, what reasonable person would choose to live under a military dictatorship rather than an elected parliament?

The anger of the rural poor, at their poverty and powerlessness, and the insults given them by the yellow shirts who mocked their intelligence and the elite who removed their elected representatives one after another is heartfelt and righteous.

However, to promote the line that the UDD is anything other than an instrument of Thaksin is preposterous. He started the movement in 2006, and today it is being run by some of his closest political allies. With a Taksin / ex-TRT party back in power the UDD will disappear as quickly as the PAD did when Somchai was removed from office.

I suggest you try talking to the 'grassroot people' as they call themselves as well as UDD/Puea supporting Thai academics. While the grassroots will parrot the speakers' calls for democracy, try telling them you're not an ardent Taksin fan and they will fall silent. This is not because they are ignorant acolytes of ridiculous personality cult as some have slandered them, but because they know that the power vacuum they are being utilised to create can be filled by only one movement with only one man at its head, and that they are, in utter certainty, turning out for that man who gave them a pot to piss in rather than nothing at all, whom if he gets back into power will be joyfully supported as long as the pots are being handed out (big, small or microscopic, depending on where one ranks in the food chain) regardless of whatever else is happening in the country, democratic or not, and if Thaksin is laughing all the way to the bank who are they to care?

However, to promote the line

However, to promote the line that the UDD is anything other than an instrument of Thaksin is preposterous.

That may well be the case. Certainly there is a vacuum in organized Thai politics. This is not a new phenomenon, it was the case before the coup when the Democrat "solution" to Thaksin was to withdraw from politics rather than to represent the Thai people.

The elite clearly prefer a Military dictatorship to any sort of government that might enjoy the support of the people, and thus be elected.

An alternative to both Thaksin, or to the next sociopath in line to exploit the opposition to the Amartyatippatai, has develop from among the people themselves. It certainly is not going to arise from the Thai political class as presently constituted.

But Thai politics will not simply stop and wait for that take place, it will roll on.

It seems clear to many if not

It seems clear to many if not all among the Red Shirts what is at stake:

Red soi, Red city: A brief commentary from the street

I don’t have the time here to reproduce in detail the various commentaries of red shirt supporters in this soi. Suffice it to say that their views can be condensed briefly here as a preface to the photos which highlight some scenes from the morning and early afternoon of 14 March. These people, whether they are card carrying UDD members (a system introduced as part of the restructuring of the UDD following the March 2009 debacle) or supporters, reiterate a number of key convictions:

  • They agree that the parliament should be dissolved and new elections held so as to “return power to the people.”
  • They argue that the Thai press and media cannot be trusted to portray the red shirt cause accurately, in contrast to the foreign media, which they believe “knows what’s really going on” in the country viz-a-viz political power.
  • They utterly reject the reports that people are paid to attend major red shirt rallies, as related in the press and among their opponents.

It’s notable that red shirt supporters in this soi have not mentioned the recent court case against Thaksin and the seizure of over fifty per cent of his assets as an explanation for the current rally timetable or its objectives.

What they personally feel for Thaksin is a matter of conjecture.

If their major objective is to be met it would seem that Newin will be the one to deliver a dissolution of the parliament and an election... or not.

He certainly qualifies as a sociopath in my book. What's in it for him?

Lifting the lid on Thailand's

Lifting the lid on Thailand's red-shirts

Their grievances and demands for a louder voice and a greater share have been dismissed time and again by the pro-establishment coalition comprising the military, palace insiders, the PAD, the Democrat Party, Bangkok's civil society and media with vested interests in the status quo... For the reds, the fight is increasingly an organic people's movement to upend the established order... The post-coup period since Thaksin was ousted in September 2006 has been a grand campaign to put a lid on the red forces unleashed during his rule.

So far, so good, in my opinion. We agree on the diagnosis. On the prognosis there are differences...

Their best option, and Thailand's most workable road ahead, is to put up and encourage as much a democratic process as possible before new polls are due late next year. If by then Abhisit still cannot come up with the goods and connect with the neglected rural heartlands even as constitutional rules and electoral referees are stacked against his opponents, the reds can have their say.

That might be the "elite's" best option but it is not "Thailand's".

The Democrats are the implacable enemies of the people outside of Bangkok... in Thailand. They will never "come up with the goods", keeping the "goods" from those they cast as the "bads" is their raison d'être. The reds cannot wait to have their say... 'til pigs fly away to pie in the sky... the reds must push until the parliament is dissolved and an election called, all the while preparing candidates and programs to implement democracy once they have won the next election. Each day the Military regime remains in place in Thailand is a setback to democracy in Thailand. It will have been four long years that the people have suffered under what began as a coup by 19 September this year. Certainly a new government could be in place on the 4th anniversary of the Thai Military's eighteenth and last coup in Thailand.