Friday, 19 March 2010

The Red Shirts: finished for now?

It is only slightly less than one week since the Red Shirt protests began in Bangkok. The Red Shirts—shall we say the 'working class', those who get their hands dirty in Thailand—are opposed to what they perceive to be the Bangkok based elite. After the struggles of the last few days, just what do they have to show for their efforts? The answer is, in the short term at least, not much.

The RSs avowed aim is to compel the Thai government to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. This did not happen. While the Prime Minister Mr Abhisit did everything short of requesting foreign assistance to restrain his opponents (he declared a state of emergency, lots of cops and troops on the street, hid himself out at an army barracks), he did not panic and give in.

On the other side of the equation the Red Shirts seem to be suffering. Their three leaders seem to have split, there now seems to be a more radical wing of their movement calling for 'communist' ideas, and many of their followers must be disenchanted with the apparent failure of the party. Time, money, man (and a lot of women) power, must have been expended for no apparent gain.

Right now (the evening of the 19th March) the Red Shirts in Bangkok are down to ten to twenty thousand tired people. Their immediate future is to turn around and start the long journey home. I wish them good luck.

However, what are the longer term perspectives? There is still that emergent class awareness held by the poorer but now better educated and more aware rural working people. There is still that perception that Bangkok calls the shots while the provinces do the work. The result of the protest did not change this underlying reality which prompted the protest in the first place. Unless the issue of the relationship between the workers in the provinces and Bangkok is settled, Thailand will continue to experience ongoing political stability.

Myself? Back in Pattaya, again, tired, and ready to sleep. Good night to all.

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