Thailand in the News Week Ending 3/20/10

Babysitting the Red Shirts in Bangkok

Red shirt rally in Bangkok

Photo courtesy Reuters

What began as a good plan for peaceful protests in Bangkok last weekend has once again turned into what amounts to nothing more than a child’s tantrum for the Red shirts. There is no doubt that the Reds have major grievances with the sitting government and they should be not only heard but part of Thailand’s political process.

Although the protests last weekend didn’t draw the estimated 1 million marchers they still rounded up some very respectable numbers and paraded peacefully throughout Bangkok. Unfortunately they had no after plan. Once they made it to the main stage they demanded that the current government be dissolved and vowed to stay in Bangkok until this came to pass. What respect they had earned form Bangkok residents quickly dissolved.

What they should have done is demand a conference with the government to address their grievances. They made their point with the Bangkok march and from many reports a lot of Thai’s that were on the fence or firmly in the Yellow shirt camp started coming around to the idea that the Reds do have some points and should be heard. The fact that it was largely a peaceful protest really helped bring people to the table. At this point the Red shirt leaders should have made their speeches and asked the government for a sit-down involving all parties.

Instead the Red leaders demanded nothing less than the government be dissolved which later broke down into splattering their own blood around the streets. The Red shirt leaders saw this as a symbolic maneuver that would gain them much respect and news coverage for their cause. While it may have garnered news coverage it was in no way respectful. Most news coverage compared the blood letting to the excrement throwing the Reds had done in earlier protests. Not only was this a stupid stunt but it was potentially dangerous as well. The health workers that drew the blood should be admonished for taking part in such a ridiculous show of ignorance.

If the Reds want to be taken seriously they need to do two things immediately. First they need to unhitch their wagon from the shooting star that is Thaksin Shinawatra. Yes, Thaksin was one of the few people to ever look out for the rural Thai’s but he did so for his own benefit, not theirs. What Thaksin wants and what the red shirt movement really wants are two separate things and as soon as the Reds realize this the better off they will be without his presence within their cause.

Secondly they need to find new leaders within their cause that not only represent the people but do so in an intelligent manner. Throwing feces and blood is a great tactic if you want the people to view your cause as a baby throwing its toys out of the pram, not so much if you want to address the real social grievances you have. If the Red shirts can do these two things they stand a chance of not only being heard but having action taken on their behalf. Last weekends protest really had a lot of hope but they pissed what little they had gained away with their childish antics and refusing to leave.

Red Rally in Bangkok

Photo courtesy Reuters

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18 Comment(s)

  1. Talen A fair summary I think. Certainly in the eyes of the world(if that matters) the blood letting was viewed as evidence of Thailand’s lack of progress-politically.

    Quite what happens next is anyones guess but as proved throughout the world dialogue is the only true way forward to get some sort of resolution.

    Thais should also ask themselves if a Red government would be any less corrupt than parties of other colours. In my opinion you can change the colour but not the culture.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..National Symbols of Thailand-Ratchaphruek(????????) Photo/Image =-.

    Mike | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  2. Mike, I have to agree, giving the reds a seat at the table wouldn’t make the table any less wobbly. The culture of corruption in Thailand’s politics will be maintained no matter who is in charge.

    Talen | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  3. Talen, a well written story and I have to say that I heartly agreee with you on all points, numbers are good for a attention getter and necessary for a good protest ,BUT did they have to hold hands and jump off the cliff? Thats my take on the matter , as Forest would say “stupid is as stupid does” and “thats all I have to say about that”. Malcolm
    .-= malcolm´s last blog ..ANOTHER DAY OLDER AND STILL KICKING HIGH =-.

    malcolm | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  4. Talen,

    ‘What respect they had earned form Bangkok residents quickly dissolved.’

    I don’t know where you are getting this (or maybe I’m misunderstanding your point). The blood issue and not coming to the table did turn some people off, but it didn’t markedly change opinions about the Red Shirts needing to be heard – and that was the overall success of the march: Getting people to talk about equality in Thailand. From what I saw, the last march through BKK was a marked success, with increased support from Bangkokians.

    I agree that the Red Shirts lost their way when they didn’t open dialogue with the present government. And I believe that the best thing Thaksin can do for his country is to leave Thailand alone so it can heal itself (without him). And I believe that the Red Shirts had no hope in hades of bringing down the government.

    The Reds I talked to thought they had a chance to change take over the government. That if they marched, then Abhisit had no choice but to step down. And that way of reasoning, is a total mystery to me. I don’t know much about Thai politics so if someone can explain it, I’m listening. Overall Abhisit did the smart thing – he sat tight, and he made sure there was no violence from the government side.

    But while the Red Shirts may come off yokel to western eyes, this is Thailand and they were aiming for a Thai audience. Going further still, in order to swell numbers they were hoping to gain support from rural Thais.

    And rural Thais have a different mindset than Bangkok Thais even. That much, is a given.

    The BKK Thais I talked to were upset about the bloodletting (the poo was mostly a non issue). But it was mostly because they feared how Thailand will be perceived on the international stage.

    The country Thais I talked to were not fussed. They saw it as a means to an end; a powerful tool to gain attention. And it was.

    But when blood was brought into it, I was done. I can’t go there. At the time I focused on the waste, but when someone on twitter asked if those complaining donated their blood on a regular basis, I had to do a rethink. I have the ‘I’m anemic’ excuse, but truthfully, would I take the time if not? Or would I make other excuses not to donate? Dunno… so perhaps it comes down to my being squeamish instead.

    On the danger of blood (taking and releasing)… There was a photographer on the scene who stayed in the tents where they took the blood. He mentioned that the care during the blood gathering was top-notch (I believe he said ‘better than what some got upcountry’). And as for the fear of someone catching something from the spilt blood, both sides have access to health officials so cleaning it up safely should not have taxed their abilities.

    And even though I’m squeamish…. I have to think of it this way… the symbolism of blood is a part of most cultures around the world, so who am I to object?

    Christianity comes to mind – drinking the blood of Christ. I mean, when you really think about it, how gross is that?

    As a kid, didn’t you become ‘blood brothers’ by mingling your blood with a friend? And what about ‘signing your name in blood?’

    When my Filipino maid’s son got his first haircut, they held a ceremony that involved cutting off a chicken’s head and anointing baby John’s forehead with the blood.

    And while I might have been turned off by the Red’s use of blood, do you remember the blood ceremony staged by the Yellow shirts?

    To me, what the Yellow Shirts did was much worse than what the Reds managed (even though the Reds beat them by gallons – and used their poo too).

    What the Yellow Shirts did was totally gross.

    Disclaimer: I am neither Red nor Yellow. But I did get a thrill out of the march…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Red Shirts in Bangkok: Signs of the Time =-.

    Catherine | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  5. I spoke too soon:

    (which is why I should stay out of political discussions… there is always something on the horizon, or some twist out of sight…)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Red Shirts in Bangkok: Signs of the Time =-.

    Catherine | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  6. Cat, I guess we have different views as to what a success is. If the reds would have done their thing sans blood for one weekend and opened up a dialogue then they would have been very successful…dragging this on is pissing people off and the blood thing only served to make them look bad.

    Blood can be drawn very safely but to then splatter it around defeats the purpose of that safety, no? With AIDS, HEP C and numerous other diseases prevalent in Thailand it wasn’t the best of choices. Not to mention that health officials should never be involved in such nonsense. It would have been much more symbolic for them to donate blood in a gesture of giving to Thailand.

    The reds have most definitely begun to change minds but unfortunately they are their own worst enemy. They start with a great plan but they never think it all the way through. Their plan this go round was to march on Bangkok ( good plan ) but to then think the Prime minister would step down and dissolve the government…not very well thought out. And as usual when what was planned comes to an end they start flailing and making it up as they go along.

    Their antics with blood and shit only serve to hurt their very genuine cause just as much as Thaksin hurts their cause. Until they start to go about this in a more intelligent manner then they will continue to be regarded as no more than an annoyance at best.

    Talen | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  7. Cat, Actually there is some very good news in that article. The government is willing to sit down and talk …this could be a very good thing for all concerned.

    Unfortunately I think Thaksin will be on the agenda for the Reds which again will hurt their cause. They really need to start thinking for themselves and let Thaksin fade away into history.

    Talen | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  8. Talen, that was the Nation… right after, I got this alert from the Bangkok Post –

    There will be no talks with red-shirt leaders if they demand the government to dissolve the lower House first, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Red Shirts in Bangkok: Signs of the Time =-.

    Catherine | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  9. And… followed by breaking news from the Nation –

    Jatuporn Promphan, a red-shirt leader, insisted Sunday that he will hold a talk only with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

    Ping Pong Politics…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Red Shirts in Bangkok: Signs of the Time =-.

    Catherine | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  10. Talen an excellent write up on the red shirt rally, but I must disagree on one point and partially on another.

    Partially first…Blood….. Bar causing violence and obstruction there was very little in the form of a protest the red shirts could do to get their point across to the Thai people and the world. They haven’t attempted to storm an airport or wreak violence against the police or army and so I think the blood splattering incident was just a way of telling the Thai government that they have the blood of the poor Thai people on their hands. Dissolve government and wash away that blood.

    Thaksin, I think if you unhitch him from the UDD wagon then a lot of the support will fade away. Support in voice and money. Mr Abhisit would like nothing better than to negotiate with a UDD free of Thaksin Shinawatra because their support would be more than halved. I’m probably wrong but I believe the Isaan people place Thaksin a lot higher than the UDD.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..Thailand – A Brit of What You Like =-.

    Martyn | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  11. Martyn, have to respectfully disagree. There was a lot that the red shirts could have done that didn’t include blood. They got their point across by amassing over 100,000 people in Bangkok.

    There is no doubt that the rural Thai’s place Thaksin higher than all else but they do it to their own detriment. I don’t think their support would be halved without him either…they still would be facing the same problems they are protesting about with or without Thaksin.

    Talen | Mar 21, 2010 | Reply

  12. Talen there is no need to respectfully disagree with me, when it comes to Thai politics I bow to your far greater knowledge. Thai politics…I don’t know my ass from my elbow.

    On the point about Thaksin I base a lot of my views on the young one and the red shirts TV channel.

    The Peoples Channel is basically a propaganda machine that runs on a constant loop churning out messages that wouldn’t stand up in a red shirt kangaroo court. Wilai is still convinced that over one million red shirt protesters turned up in Bangkok, because that’s what the TV has told her.

    I also agree with you about Thaksin taking Thailand to the cleaners but the red shirt TV loop spouts otherwise. I reckon the Isaan folk wouldn’t believe hard evidence about Thaksin if it was presented to them on rice paper with a papaya salad as a side dish. Brainwashing is a clever art and Thaksin a clever man. Take away the main honcho and I think you play into the Mr Abhisit’s hands.

    Your post proves that a good well written story attracts a lot of comments and good debate.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..Thailand – A Brit of What You Like =-.

    Martyn | Mar 22, 2010 | Reply

  13. Don’t you dare bow to me sir ;) I know very little myself but the red shirt saga has always interested me.

    The red channel is definitely a good Thaksin pr machine…and it should be he pays for it. Pookie and family are the same, they only believe what they are told.

    I truly think there are leaders among them that can work the group together for the cause…but Thaksin’s cause is what pays the bills.

    I still think Thaksin will return and be in some position of power one day but it would be nice to see the reds stand up for themselves instead of a power hungry billionaire.

    Talen | Mar 22, 2010 | Reply

  14. Where are all the yellow shirts right now? If the gov’t decides to meet with the reds, does that mean we’ll see the yellow shirted ones come out to protest?
    .-= Tony´s last blog ..Thai protesters drive into the city =-.

    Tony | Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

  15. Tony, The yellow shirts are busy becoming a political party and changing over to green shirts. I think they realized they could do more as a political force than a movement.

    I’m sure they will have something to say either way if the talks come to pass.

    Talen | Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

  16. Do you think the red shirts will ever become a legitimate political party? With their numbers surely someone must recognize their political potential.
    .-= Tony´s last blog ..Thai protesters drive into the city =-.

    Tony | Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

  17. Clearly the headline of the month – beautiful!
    .-= BangkokDan´s last blog ..True Blanket Censorship =-.

    BangkokDan | Mar 24, 2010 | Reply

  18. Tony, The red shirts already basically have a party. The Puea Thai Party which was formally the Peoples Power Party which was created when the Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved by the government. Thaksin was the leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party.

    Talen | Mar 25, 2010 | Reply

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