Thai protests

Written By: - Date published: 6:59 am, May 20th, 2010 - 7 comments
Categories: International - Tags: ,

Before we all get completely caught up in the budget kerfuffle, spare a thought for those with bigger problems on their hands, like the people of Thailand. The country is being torn by an ongoing and complex internal struggle:

These conflicts date back several years, reflecting a basic divide between two competing colour-coded patronage-based networks. The redshirts are broadly allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They remain incensed that he was ousted in the disastrous September 2006 military coup which did nothing to dent his electoral support, especially in the populous north and north-east.

Opposing them are the yellowshirts, who are a royalist movement sympathetic to the present Democrat Party-led administration, the military and the bureaucracy. For them, Thaksin represents the dark side of Thai capitalism, seeking cynically to subvert the country’s traditional institutions and values for his own advancement and advantage. The divide between the two sides transcends social class and regional origin, splitting families and households across the nation.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issues and the popular image of the redshirts as non-violent pro-democracy underdogs is woefully simplistic normalcy will not be restored in Thailand until a genuine accommodation is reached between the two sides.

Yesterday Thai government troops stormed the Red Shirt protest camp. Three protesters and a photographer were killed (tens of people have been killed in all, and hundreds wounded). The Guardian has a live blog of events. Despite the end of the protest camp, the situation remains highly unstable. From the first linked article:

The end of the formal protests solves nothing; indeed, it seems to be ushering in a new and even more disturbing phase of random violence and mayhem. The deep-rooted tension between pro- and anti-Thaksin networks have not gone away.

It seems unlikely that this situation will be resolved without further conflict and loss of life. In NZ we have an extreme risk travel advisory. Best wishes to those with friends and family in Thailand.

7 comments on “Thai protests”

  1. Bill 1

    If, like me you find this whole ‘red shirt, yellow shirt’ divide murky and confusing, there is a good piece here that uses historical developments from 1932 to the present as a vehicle to explain the present situation and the various loyalties and schisms.

    He also has a detailed and informative blog depending on how keen you are to get a grasp of what is going on.

  2. Croc 2

    Thanks Bill, it’s pretty hard to get any background info at all from the MSM.

  3. jimmy 3

    I see now, thanks Bill. I was on a university trip in Thailand during the airport blockade and couldnt figure a thing out (scored a trip to Malaysia because of it so I was stoked!). The Thai students and academics we were with didnt like to talk about the situation, with all that history I can see why.

    They just wanted peace, calm, and the tourists to keep coming. The Thai’s are wonderful people and I hope the flare up doesnt stop the tourists for too long. Just fly in and out of Phuket would be my advice, everything seems to coalesce in Bangkok but everything was dandy outside.

  4. David 4

    All politics is complicated, but the article you quote offers not illumination, but a smoke screen for a dictatorship that is gunning down its opponents in the streets.

    The Red Shirts are mostly poor peasants and workers. It is a left wing movement which calls for democracy and social justice.

    The Red Shirts admire Thaksin, despite many faults, because before he was forced into exile, he introduced a basic social welfare system. Thaksin’s ally won the next election, but he too was overthrown.

    The current government is a dictatorship. It was not elected, it came to power as the result of a military coup, and, as the events of the last few days have proved, only stays in power with the support of the military.

    For an in depth analysis of the situation from a left wing perspective take a look at Asia Left Observer:

    and the blog of exiled Thai political scientist and Red Shirt activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn:

  5. jimmy 5

    Ahh good links David, fingers crossed for social democracy!

  6. The strength will shift in favor of the Red Shirts as violence continues to deepen. The Red Shirts represent a populist movement. Currently, the protestors who are getting killed belong to the Red Shirts, who will win public sympathy. Furthermore, the Thai economy will be harmed by the protests, which will lead to further public discontent for the current government.

  7. I hope some compromise suitable to both the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts will be reach soon. This horrible bloodshed needs to stop for stability and peace to return to Thailand.

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