Rally symbolic of a brewing class struggle
The mainstream mass media has been so busy blasting Thaksin Shinawatra for being the cause of all political evil that it has failed to see the seeds of the class struggle that have been germinating since the 2006 coup. Nevertheless, the attacks on the old elite have been unprecedented.
An SMS from the ever-reliable, pro-establishment news agency INN, that this writer subscribes to, warned yesterday that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban is concerned about this talk of a "class war".
Discourse about class exploitation and unequal political voice has been growing among the red-shirt protesters, most of whom are dirt poor with little or no formal education. Well-to-do Bangkokians only have to see the welcome given by the capital's working class to their red-shirt counterparts to recognise this.
In front of Rama Hospital, red shirts' rally to the 11th Infantry Regiment on 15 March
Sure, they talk fondly about Thaksin and demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down, but many of their songs, grievances and angst is about class inequality as well as socio-economic and political disparity. The sense of injustice and inequality in Thai politics and society is real and has struck a chord with many in the Bangkok working and lower middle-class, who warmly welcomed the red shirts yesterday on Sukhumvit Road.
Red shirts' rally to Abhisit's House in Sukhumvit, 17 March (Photo by The Zombie, http://www.prachataiwebboard.com/webboard/id/29678)
The point is not whether the number of protesters is more or less than 100,000, because there are enough red-shirt sympathisers upcountry and in the slums of Bangkok. And judging by yesterday's motorcade the poor are a force to be reckoned with even if they are going to disperse in the next few days.
What will not disappear though is that, with or without Thaksin, there is growing recognition that the poor are oppressed and exploited, and their demands for greater socio-political and economic equality have gone unheeded by many in the mainstream mass media, which continues writing columns lambasting Thaksin.
Or perhaps they simply don't want to admit what they're seeing?
In front of Rama Hospital, 15 March
The level of disdain and bias among the educated middle-class and the elite, mostly in Bangkok, is appalling. They're not just ignorant about the plight of the poor, but are indifferent to it. In fact, they failed to realise the red shirts managed to shut down a good part of downtown Sukhumvit despite the mainstream media predicting the protesters had already lost the battle.
The level of real contact between the middle-class and the elite with the poor is mostly superficial and confined to relationships where the latter are servants and subordinates. The middle-class and elite feel that they are entitled to being superior and that the poor should know their place in life. Therefore, when the poor continue supporting Thaksin, many of the well-off folk in Bangkok have no problems supporting a military coup.
Nevertheless, nothing is as incoherent as the belief that only the educated middle-class and the elite are qualified to run this country. One must consider how backward Thailand remains politically and economically when compared to countries like South Korea to appreciate what a "marvellous job" the elite and the middle class have been doing for the Kingdom.
If the upper echelons of society have been screwing-up Thailand for the past many decades, might it not be fair for the poor to now say: "Enough is enough", and seek a chance to run or ruin this country too?