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'Red Shirt' Stronghold Waits in Aftermath of Bangkok Crackdown

Compared to the Thai capital, Bangkok, Udon Thani is a relatively poor, agricultural province in northeastern Thailand where people are mostly farmers and laborers. It is also a stronghold of Thailand's so-called "Red Shirt" protest movement which has the strong backing of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister.

Mr. Thaksin was able to galvanize support in the region by bringing programs and handouts to the people such as housing subsidies for the poor. When a 2006 military coup against Mr. Thaksin removed him from power, the Red Shirt movement was formed. His supporters felt they had lost their voice in politics, believing the military and elites in Bangkok had marginalized them.

As anger built, community radio stations and newspapers sprang up, feeding the Red Shirt movement. These emerging media organized citizens and encouraged them to protest against the government and demand new elections. Those protestors - many from Udon Thani - traveled to Bangkok in March, occupying the heart of the city for two months. A few who died in the protest were from Udon Thani.

Many of the low level leaders and protesters are keeping a low profile, not wanting to bring attention to themselves. But they haven't yet given up, choosing to wait and see how the government will handle two key issues.

First, how will their leaders be treated by the judicial system and will they face harsher sentences than leaders of their yellow shirt opponents who supported the coup and occupied the airports but have not been punished?

Second, will the government make good on its promise to hold timely elections?

After the bloody crackdown by Thai security forces last month, the Red Shirt movement is in a holding pattern. Many of its core leaders have turned themselves into authorities and are now facing terrorism charges.