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Thailand's Class War

phrai | 20.05.2010 19:15 | Repression | Social Struggles | Terror War

Some of this info has been taken from wikipedia.

State violence has been met by violence from the Red Shirts, who targetted the stock exchange, shopping malls, banks and media outlets in Bangkok seen as sympathetic to the government. The Bangkok Post and Channel 3 television were both evacuated. Outside Channel-3, cars parked outside the building were set on fire and protesters then entered the Channel 3 building and set it on fire. In total, 30 buildings were gutted with fire, as a curfew was laid down and extended to 21 provinces across the north and north east of the country overnight. The curfew has been extended by 3 days.

Will this mean the rural working class will finally get listened to? Probably not just right now but this just the start. Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra is right to say that the government clampdown will see the start of a guerrilla war. Investors/companies are already moving out of Bangkok. The Red Shirts may have lost the battle, but the may just win the war in view of the potential that exists in view of their sheer numbers, despite a heavy state clampdown. Time for the rich elite to cede some of their power, otherwise even more significant chunks of the middle class will turn against them as well and join in their complete annihilation.

This class war in Thailand which has now just escalated is a war between the rural working class and the royalists, business elite & urban middle class, led by media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul & former general Chamlong Srimuang with close ties to the king's most senior adviser, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. While the Red Shirts have moved on from being just a support movement for the return of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawat, their political demands against what they view as the political subversion (by their opponents the urban middle-class dominated "Yellow Shirts') against Shinawat and the People's Power Party supported by Shinawat which won the first post-coup election in 2007, is informed by the fact that Thaksin was the first elected politician in Thailand since Pridi Banomyong to stand up to the army-palace alliance. That is why he was removed to stop any prospect of using the 1997 constitution which would have chipped away at the army-palace alliance's hold on power. They knew this & royalist intellectual Amorn Chantarasomboon was already talking about the "tyranny of the majority" in 2004 & calling for an increase in the power of the King.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's comment that a military crackdown might spark a guerrilla war has been cited as proof by the establishment that he is the orchestrating hand. Either way, whether this is true to limited extent or not at-all (since the Reds are clearly now a mass movement in their own right not wholly dependent on Thaksin's money for everything they have done), there is a dark foreboding rippling through Thai society right now that this may indeed be the case.


The Peoples' Alliance for Democracy (the Yellow Shirts) - are a loose grouping of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class, led by media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, a former general with close ties to the king's most senior adviser, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.

The PAD was instrumental in setting the scene for the military coup which removed Mr Thaksin from office in 2006. Thaksin Shinawatra's popularity was based upon health and social welfare programmes he brought in in the rural provinces which afforded him alot of support, hence his re-election in 2005 with the highest turnout in Thai history. He was controversial, however, aside from his financial dealings. His human rights record were severly brought into question with the clampdown on muslim insurgents in the south, with independent bodies, including Amnesty International, criticized Thaksin's human rights record.

Months after allies of Mr Thaksin were elected in the first post-coup election in 2007, PAD took over Government House for three months and engineered a week-long siege of Bangkok's main airports in December 2008, crippling the country's vital tourism industry.
Amid the turmoil of the airport blockade in December 2008, a Constitutional Court ruled that the then ruling pro-Thaksin party was guilty of electoral fraud and barred its leaders from politics for five years.

Together with several court rulings against Mr Thaksin's political parties, they are credited with bringing down two governments of his allies - firstly the administration of Samak Sundaravej and then that of Mr Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat.

On December 3, 2008, the majority of the former People's Power Party (PPP) MPs defected to the Pheu Thais Party (PTP). The PPP itself had been the successor party to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai (TRT). The PPP was dissolved by the Constitutional Court of Thailand on December 2, 2008.

On December 3, 2008, the majority of the former PPP MPs defected to the For Thais Party. In a December 2008 parliamentary session MPs of five PPP coalition parties decided to endorse Abhisit Vejjajiva as the next Prime Minister and themselves forming a Democrat-led coalition. The PTP campaigned for their endorsement by the PPP-coalition parties. However, Abhisit had gained their support for the premiership. After that, the party called for a national unity government in which all parties would be involved, with Snoh Thienthong of the Royalist People's Party as the new premier. This proposal was rejected by the defecting coalition parties and the Democrat Party. On December 11, Worrawat Eua-apinyakul, a PTP member, suggested that the party should push for a house dissolution and general elections, with the hope of depriving the prospective coalition of a parliamentary majority. However, the President of the House of Representatives; Chai Chidchob spoke against the plan.

The party platform of the PTP espouses the continuation of the TRT/PPP policies. It is supported by the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as the "Red Shirts".

The red-shirts - the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) - are a loose coalition of left-wing activists, democracy campaigners and mainly rural supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Mr Thaksin Shinawatra.

The following comment is from ‘harrier’ taken from the article “THE RED SHIRTS v THE OLD ETONIAN”, taken from Ian Bone’s Blog:
“One Lib com correspondent gave this account of the background.
“Political movements amongst the poor have been around for decades…Thaksin’s party alone was a fusion of a number of parties itself and a coalition government including several parties that had strong grass roots based records.”

“The Thai socialist movement vehemently opposed to Thaksin when in power seem to be supporting the reds. Former communist guerrillas who fought in the jungle in the 60′s-80s are supporting them. The idea that it’s a bunch of personality-worshipping dupes is exactly the propaganda the opponents want you to believe, that poor people can’t have sophisticated views.” ” (Source: “THE RED SHIRTS v THE OLD ETONIAN”, by ‘harrier’, taken from Ian Bone’s Blog, Ref: )

The Rise of the Red-Shirts:

In April 2009 the red-shirts forced the cancellation of a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean). They stormed the venue in the seaside resort of Pattaya, causing huge embarrassment to the government.

A day later, tens of thousands of protesters broke into the interior ministry, and camped around Government House; a clampdown resulted in the deaths of two people.

The red-shirts went home, only to return almost a year later in March 2010 (overcoming the imposition of checkpoints set up to inspect caravans of protesters arriving from outside provinces to Bangkok). This time they came in force, on 14 March, with tens of thousands joining the first rally in Bangkok, in protest that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power illegitimately, claiming he is a puppet of the military. They vowed not to leave until the government stood down. They have demanded that Mr Abhisit must resign and call fresh elections. The protests on Sunday 14 March were the largest in Thai history, and were peaceful. On Tuesday 16th March, UDD protesters announced that they would be collecting 10 cubic centimetres of blood from volunteers and symbolically pouring the blood at Government House and other sites in Bangkok.

From their first camp around Government House, rolling rallies took on a more confrontational tone. First they moved into Bangkok's shopping hub. Over the course of a month, they stormed parliament, the Election Commission and a key satellite TV base. On 3rd April protesters occupied the shopping district in the city of Bangkok.

Abhisit declared a state of emergency on the evening of 8th April. The state of emergency permitted the military to detain people they considered a threat to national security, censor the media, and forbid gatherings of more than five people. Troops barricaded the uplink station for the Thaicom satellite to prevent it from airing People Channel, a popular TV station sympathetic to the UDD. Protesters surrounded the station in the afternoon of 9 April. Tear gas was fired into the crowd, prompting the protesters to storm the station and the troops to withdraw. After negotiations, the security forces allowed the station to resume broadcasting and the protesters left the uplink station. However, the government blocked the station's broadcast soon after protesters left the scene.

On 10 April an attempt by the military to clear them from one of their camps turned violent. Soldiers and riot police moved in to disperse the protesters by force. The operation degenerated into running street battles. Mysterious black-clad gunmen appeared on the side of the protesters and the army was forced to retreat. At least 25 people were killed, including at least five soldiers.

Thereafter, Troops were bought back onto the streets with orders to use live ammunition if necessary to stop the red-shirts advancing on the capital's financial district.

On 12 April 2010, the Election Commission called for the dissolution of the PM's Democrat Party.

On Monday, 3 May, PM Abhisit offered polls on 14 November 2010, on condition that the Red Shirts finish their protest. But none was reached, after additional conditions were set by the leaders, including holding the deputy prime minister accountable for the 10 April violence were met with silence from the government; the deal ended in stalemate.

On the evening of 22 April, around 8 pm local time, a series of explosions caused by red-shirts in Bangkok killed one person and injured 86 more, including at least four foreigners. The explosions were caused by at least five M-79 grenades.[1] Three of the grenades were set off at Saladaeng Skytrain station, one near the Dusit Thani Hotel, and one near a bank. It was the first time during the protests that a grenade attack occurred in a densely populated area and the first time that serious injuries occurred. The government blamed unspecified "terrorists" for the attack. Suthep stated, "the M79 launcher had a 400-metre shooting range and it was clear that it was shot from behind the King Rama VI Monument where the Red Shirts are rallying". Red Shirt leaders denied being responsible for the attacks.

Following the blasts, Abhisit called an emergency meeting with security chiefs to assess the worsening crisis. Thaugsuban said the government has no immediate plans to crack down on the protester encampment because there are a large number of women and children at the site. A multi-agency investigation into the 10 April and 22 April violence was announced.

On 13 May the Thai military said it would seal off the protest camp. On the evening of Thursday 13 May, clashes then erupted when Khattiya Sawasdiphol ("Seh Daeng"), a prominent security advisor to the protesters, was shot in the head by what was apparently a sniper's bullet while he was giving an interview to The New York Times. The government denied being behind his assassination. The government claimed that all civilian killed were either armed terrorists or civilians shot by terrorists, and noted that some civilians were shot by terrorists dressing in military uniforms.[2] The state of emergency was expanded to 17 provinces nationwide on the evening of 13 May and the military later declared the protest area a "live fire zone." Medical personnel were banned from entering the protest zone.[3]

In recent days troops and protesters have been involved in deadly clashes in several areas bordering the protest camp. More than 30 people have been killed.

On 17 May the government gave a deadline of 1500 (0800 GMT) for protesters to leave their protest area. On the same day, Amnesty International called for the military to stop using live ammunition in protest areas.

The siege on the Red Shirts protest camp in the centre of Bangkok which had been there for more than six weeks started in the early morning of 19 May, with armored vehicles leading the final assault into the main protest site pushing through barricades of bamboo and tyres that the protesters had set on fire. In retailation to some small arms fire, the army killed at least five people, including an Italian journalist. There were reports of soldiers firing on medical staff who went to the aid of victims. By 1.30pm, protest leaders surrendered to police and told protesters to give themselves up, declaring a ceasefire as they were arrested, against the wishes of many protesters, it has been reported.. A radio station – Red Radio – aligned with the Red Shirt movement, had already called for banks to be set on fire across the city upon any army advance on the camp. Violence spread to north-east Thailand – a redshirt stronghold – where protesters stormed a town hall complex in the city of Udon Thani, setting a building on fire, and torched a second town hall in Khon Kaen. Unrest was reported in seven other provinces. The military declared a curfew and ordered television stations to show only government programmes. Troops were authorized to shoot on sight anybody looting, committing arson, or inciting unrest. Protesters armed with assault rifles fired back at troops making their way north up Ratchadamri Road. Outnumbered and lacking firepower, the redshirts suffered serious casualties. Since May 14, 51 people have been killed in clashes, 12 of whom died during the army crackdown and subsequent fighting in Bangkok.

PM Abhisit withdrew the offer of a national Election on the 10th November 2010 on the 19th May.

This class war in Thailand which has now escalated is a war between the rural working class and the royalists, business elite & urban middle class, led by media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul & former general Chamlong Srimuang with close ties to the king's most senior adviser, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda. While the Red Shirts have moved on from being just a support movement for the return of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawat, they know that Thaksin was the first elected politician in Thailand since Pridi Banomyong to stand up to the army-palace alliance. That is why he was removed to stop any prospect of using the 1997 constitution which would have chipped away at the army-palace alliance's hold on power. They knew this & royalist intellectual Amorn Chantarasomboon was already talking about the "tyranny of the majority" in 2004 & calling for an increase in the power of the King.

State violence has been met by violence from the Red Shirts, who targetted the stock exchange, shopping malls, banks and media outlets in Bangkok seen as sympathetic to the government. The Bangkok Post and Channel 3 television were both evacuated. Outside Channel-3, cars parked outside the building were set on fire and protesters then entered the Channel 3 building and set it on fire.

In the aftermath of the violence, will it mean the rural working class will finally get listened to? Probably not, atleast not in the short-to-medium term. An honest media should explore their grievance in more detail, such as how the government closed the Red TV station without getting an injunction, & though Red Shirts have moved on from being just for the return of Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, how the exiled former PM Shinawatra was removed to stop any prospect of using the 1997 constitution which would have chipped away at the army-palace alliance's hold on power.

Supporters of the Thai establishment consistently avowedly affirm how Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy for 80 years and has allowed the country to undertake a smooth transition to growing economic wealth and a peaceful democracy. There wasn't much peace on 6 Oct 1976 when paramilitaries shot dead democracy protesters in Thammasat University. King Bhumibol has a history of backing military coups and right-wing dictators, the last one being obviously in 2006. In 1957, King Bhumibol decided that that right wing dictator Phibun was not paying sufficient deference to the crown, 1957 is the 2500 year anniversary of Bhuddism and huge celebrations are planned. Bhumibol snubs Phibun by not appearing at any ceremonies, Phibun responds by placing newspaper stories reading "royalty snub religion" public opinion turns against Phibun. He goes to the palace where Bhumibol tells him to resign or be removed by force, Bhumibol knows he has the backing of the army, Phibun refuses and a coup is enacted. Bhumibol installs Field Marshall Sarit as Thailand’s next right wing dictator.

None of these various dictators Thailand has had, have ruled without the backing of Bhumibol, they could not of ruled without his consent. The only book to cover this period and not be subject to Thai censors is Paul m Handley "the king never smiles" When pro-democracy activists met in Bangkok in the 90's to discuss the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, the king called them to the palace to lecture them on the benefits of the Burmese system. In a speech he made in New York in the 60's he described US antiwar protesters as brainwashed by communists.

Final comment from ‘harrier’: “{This] class struggle in Thailand, against an elitist elite, [was] given away by one Yellow Shirt comment that the Red Shirts were uneducated peasants, how could their vote count as equal to mine”. (Ref: “THE RED SHIRTS v THE OLD ETONIAN”, taken from Ian Bone’s Blog, Ref: ).

1. BBC News, Deadly blasts hit Bangkok protest hub, 22 April 2010
2. "Gunmen target innocent people: CRES", Bangkok Post, 17/05/2010
3. "Medics banned from entering 'red zones' ", The Nation, 16 May 2010

Taken the website of ‘Political Prisoners in Thailand’ (PPT)

May 20, 2010
What makes a social movement?

William Barnes in Asia Times Online runs a line of argument on the red shirts that is worthy of comment. PPT commented on an earlier article by Barnes, claiming that the “radical” red shirts were actually communists. We made the point that his speculation, based on a single source in the Peoples' Alliance for Democracy (PAD), made little sense for anyone who had observed Thailand’s politics in recent years. Barnes is claimed to be “a veteran Bangkok-based journalist.”

In this new article, Barnes says: “As the crisis evolved, the bottom line for the UDD was that they never gained the huge numbers of protesters that would have indicated a genuine popular uprising.” He later adds: “Yet the UDD’s inability to attract the massive popular support that they initially predicted limited the efficacy and credibility…”.

PPT thinks Barnes is seriously misrepresenting the nature of the red shirt movement. Yes, we know that the red shirts said they’d bring a million people to the demonstrations in Bangkok, and they didn’t get close to that in any single demonstration. However, government claims to the contrary, several seasoned reporters and academics recognized that the red shirt demonstrations that began on 12 March were probably the largest single massing of government opponents since 1973. PPT visited the red shirt protest site at the Pan Fah Bridge several times, and was staggered by the huge numbers of people present.

More spectacularly, the red shirt caravan of 20 March was simply huge, mammoth, gigantic – the reader can choose the word. Hours and hours of protesters parading on motorcycles, trucks, cars, pickups and a few bicycles was the biggest and most novel demonstration PPT has ever seen in Bangkok. The most remarkable thing about it was the tremendous solidarity shown by average working people in Bangkok. That scared the elite witless and frightened the middle class even more. Not because there was violence, but because, in their hearts, they finally knew that the were up against a true people’s movement.

Yes, there are Thaksin acolytes and violent elements, just as there is in the rest of Thai society, not least amongst the elite’s protective services. However, the burgeoning support for the red shirts was truly devastating for their opponents, making them desperate to incite violence. If that wasn’t enough, in the countryside, the red tide was all too evident. Whole parts of the country supported the demonstrators in Bangkok

In other words, if such a movement is not a general popular uprising, then Barnes is seeking something that could only exist in fairy tales.

Barnes does note that “the few thousand who remained [at Rajaprasong – later he says there were 600] now seem sufficiently radicalized by the military’s killing of fellow protesters to take vengeance through arson attacks on prominent private businesses and government buildings.” We think he’s right on the radicalization,, although we again think his numbers are zipped. The whole process of red shirt activism from immediately after the 2006 coup has radicalized more than a “few thousand.” That radicalism may be expressed in ways that Barnes and his Bangkok-based journalists might not recognize, but it is a once in a generation change that the old oligarchy will have trouble reversing. This is why repression will increase in Thailand.

We will question the identification of red shirts with all of the burning. We do not doubt that angry red shirts will have been involved in some of this, and we may easily recall that calls were made a month ago to burn the city if the red shirts were defeated. However, we ask why no questions are raised? How could the red shirts burn all these buildings, many of them after curfew and where the military had orders to shoot arsonists on sight? Doesn’t that seem just a little odd? PPT has also had reports of small gasoline fires outside apartment buildings in tiny sois. Why? Is this a warning that supporting the red shirts is a sin? Or is it meant to invoke fear? Or is it disgruntled red shirts wanting to burn nothing in particular? Isn’t it worth thinking back to army actions in the past, where they have been prepared to make “demonstrations” of the evil intent of their opponents? Ask the question at least.

As we mentioned above, Barnes has conflicting figures. He comments that “As of Tuesday, the total number of protesters in the mid-city protest site had fallen to around 600, not including women and children who took shelter in a nearby Buddhist temple and hospital, according to this correspondent’s estimate.” PPT has several correspondents in the area who have great experience in journalism and in dealing with mass movements. In addition, the BBC broadcast pictures live from the area. While there may have been 500-600 around the stage area, there were several thousand in other areas around the Rajaprasong-centered site.

Actually, this points to one of the failures on the part of many journalists, who concentrated on the stage area at Rajaprasong and Phan Fah. In both places, in order to know what was going on and how many people were there, one needed to get into the side streets and lanes.

Barnes, like a number of other international media, became fixated on people in black clothing. He says this of “black shirts”: “Thai military sources had earlier estimated that there were around 500 UDD black-shirt fighters, whom officials referred to as terrorists, in the sprawling encampment. This correspondent, however, found no more than 100 black-shirted guards, perhaps fewer, at the site on Tuesday. There is no confirmation that the black shirts scattered around the city are now orchestrating the mushrooming arson attacks.”

We think Barnes has confused guards – who did dress in black – and those the government calls “terrorists” who dressed in black to kill people on 10 April. Many of the former had changed out of the black “uniform” in recent days (as did many of the red shirts). The international media fetish for finding armed red shirts strikes us as strange, when the most heavily armed groups involved are all in state regalia. The proportionality is lost when journalists seek the “black shirts.”

Reporting like that by Barnes will form the core of the government’s justification of its murderous actions – as happened on 10 April. As previously, PPT urges observers to look at where the casualties were. Who took the brunt of the killing and wounding? It wasn’t soldiers.


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