It’s in the British psyche to embrace plucky losers over ruthless winners and so being of British origin and in the interest of playing devil’s advocate I would like to try and put forward a few of my thoughts regarding the recent Red Shirt events.
Firstly, I have no real bias about Thai politics because these matters don’t directly concern or affect me. I don’t support the Red Shirts and neither do I support the Yellow, Green, Blue or Pink shirts but in the interests of fair-play I think someone should put forward an argument in the Red Shirt’s favour. Secondly, I certainly do not condone violence of ANY kind nor the malicious damage to property as perpetrated by the thugs who associated themselves with the legitimate Red Shirt protesters.
In Stickman’s weekly column “The Red Shirt Crisis Reviewed, No Longer Neutral” Stick
refers to the former Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra as a “convicted felon and wanted fugitive”. Of course Taksin is a convicted felon and wanted fugitive because he’s been ousted by the present ‘illegitimate’
government. By the same token, if by some miracle the tyrant Saddam Hussein had won the Iraq war then both George W Bush and Tony Blair would also now be convicted felons and wanted fugitives. I believe that Taksin was corrupt when in government,
but corruption is rife throughout politics (as well as in business) in both first and third world countries. Globally, there are more corrupt politicians than there are bar girls in Pattaya. However, apart from lining his own pockets, Taksin also
introduced a range of effective policies to alleviate rural poverty. He launched the country's first universal healthcare program known as the 30-baht scheme. He introduced cheap loans for rural farmers, better all round education and a drug
suppression campaign. Taksin’s ‘Thaksinomics’ policies also created a new boom in Thailand after the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. He was also credited for his handling of the tsunami relief effort after the 2004.
Whatever Taksin’s failings, it can not be disputed that he was democratically elected and that his re-election in 2005 had the highest voter turnout in Thai history. If the Thais want to elect as their Prime Minister a “convicted felon and wanted fugitive” then that’s their prerogative. On the other hand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the present Prime Minister, has not been democratically elected. He was chosen as prime minister by the military junta that ruled Thailand for over a year after the 2006 coupe that overthrew Thaksin. Abhisit comes from an upper-class wealthy family of Thai-Chinese origin. He was born in Newcastle, England and was educated at England's top public school, Eton. Needless to say, Abhisit was born with his pockets already fully lined. How can Abhisit possibly relate to the needs of the poor people in rural Thailand? Abhisit is widely considered to be a puppet of the military junta. And as far as corruption is concerned, he has been accused of covering up illegal donations by a petrochemical firm to his Party during the run-up to the 2005 elections and this scandal is still not resolved. I wonder why.
The Yellow Shirts consist mainly of middle and upper-class Bangkokians and Southerners and have the support of the Thai Army as well as Thailand’s elite. The Yellow Shirts protesters made international headlines at the end of 2008 with the closure of Bangkok’s two airports. TV viewers around the world were shown images of the occupation of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports by the Yellow Shirts. This disruption caused immense financial damage to the Thai economy and untold misery not only to the Thai populace but also to international trade and tourists on which the Thai economy so heavily depends. It could be argued that whilst the Red Shirts occupation of the Bangkok’s city centre caused major inconvenience to local Bangkokians, it caused very little inconvenience to Thailand’s tourists and foreign business people who have no involvement in Thai politics. Most non-Thais simply avoided the area as I did when I was in Bangkok in April. Although Central World is (was) an impressive shopping mall, there are many other places in Bangkok in which to shop. Shutting down Thailand’s major international airports is far more debilitating than shutting down a small part of the Bangkok city centre.
When the Yellow Shirts occupied the airports in 2006 they did not need to build any fortifications or barricades to defend themselves. They knew that the Thai army were on their side. However, in the latest crisis the Red Shirts knew that they may ultimately have to face the army, and when your back is up against the wall you will revert to desperate measures. I don’t doubt for one minute that had the army been deployed to clear the Yellow Shirts protesters from the airports in 2008, we would have witnessed the same sort of carnage and destruction as seen in the recent assault against the Red Shirts.
It’s been widely reported that many members of the Red Shirts were bribed into attending the Bangkok protests. Whilst I’m sure bribes were offered and accepted it can in no way account for the overwhelming number of Red Shirt supporters in Thailand. If Thailand’s present government addressed the issues of the rural poor, then perhaps these poor people will not be tempted by a couple of thousand baht to attend these protests and put their lives at risk. In addition, these poor rural folk won’t need to send their daughters to Bangkok and Pattaya to get fucked by us farangs in order to send a little money home to help their families survive. It’s not a crime to be poor. All these people want is a fair distribution of Thailand’s wealth. Something that the Thai upper classes and the elite wish to avoid.
I’m sure many Stickman sycophants will be eager to rebuff the points raised in this essay. Personally, I’m more interested in number 21 in Tilac.
Many fair points raised. I don't necessarily agree with you, but you make many valid points I have to admit.