News / Asia

Red Shirts Pause During Thailand's Political Crisis

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra addressed the media on December 10, 2013.
Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra addressed the media on December 10, 2013.
Ron Corben

Leaders of Thailand's Red Shirt movement, the key support base for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, say they are increasingly united behind her ruling Pheu Thai party and are preparing for February 2 polls.

The boisterous protesters who have turned out in Bangkok in recent weeks have dominated headlines and shaken the government, but their political clout at the polls is less impressive.

The so-called Yellow Shirts are largely made up of wealthier Bangkok residents, as well as Democrat Party allies in Thailand's south. Protest leaders have rejected the prime minister's call for elections in early February, which analysts say is a recognition that after a decade of election losses, they do not expect to win at the polls.

A Red Shirt leader, Thida Thavornseth, the chairwoman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, says the protesters stance against elections has electrified the prime minister's supporters.

"They are angry. People in the North, people in the North Eastern, people [in the] up country area, they are angry. I try to tell them to keep calm because we want just a few days.”

The UDD's political heart is in rural Thailand. But even there, not everyone has been supportive of the government's policies. After helping vote Ms. Yingluck into office in 2011, disagreements emerged as some factions felt they had been sidelined by the ruling party.

But UDD leader Thida says those internal political divisions have narrowed as their opponents have demanded the suspension of elections and creation of an unelected “people's council.”

Political scientist in the northeastern university of Ubon Rathchathani, Titipol Phakdeewanich, says the yellow shirt protesters have done little to reach out to voters in Thailand's rural heartland, alienating their movement from the voters they need.

"I don't think they really thought about this including people in Isaan or in the north because they still think that these people are not well educated. The more they use this kind of tactic, the more they actually force the Red Shirts to become more united and Thaksin will become stronger and stronger, he said."

The UDD, set up in 2006, was originally formed to support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after his ouster in a coup. Since then, the movement has been a vital backer of pro-Thaksin governments.

Red Shirt groups have largely stayed quiet during the current standoff. They held days of rallies in a Bangkok stadium last month, but withdrew their supporters following deadly clashes.

Meanwhile, Bangkok protest leader Suthep Thuangsuban has kept up steady criticism of the prime minister, flatly rejected the proposed elections and continued to press for the creation of the non-elected ruling council that will propose major political reforms for the country.

Chris Baker, a commentator and author on Thai politics says the circumstances make for a complicated outlook.

"If you think for a minute about what Suthep is proposing  - an 18 month interim parliamentary government while they think up reform - which is what they did after the coup (2006) and they want to try it again - it's outrageous - really outrageous. There seems to be this extraordinary faith that this process which has been done countless times before without achieving anything will suddenly deliver nirvana - unbelievable, he said."

Red Shirt leaders say they support talks on reforming the Thai political system, but say such talks must take place in parallel with the holding of the February 2 polls.


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Comment Sorting
by: reallythai from: thailand
December 17, 2013 4:04 AM
There are many reasons why we have to protest and ask that Yingluk and her cabinet resign from being care taking government. Yingluk' cabinet runs the country under Taksin' commands and controls. Taksin is a fugitive in exile. He is corrupted. He is a dictator. He spent a fortune of his money to buy off many MP's. Herefuses the authority of court of justice and Constitution court. He is a cause of all the political turmoil that we are now facing.

The list of destructive and unlawful acts of Yingluk's government and the MP's. on the government are as follows: The rice scheme is corrupted and has lost more than 40 billions baht
The flood management scheme is corrupted and not accepted by the people in many communities. They attempted to issue amnesty decree that encompasses all corrupted politicians, terrorists, arsonists, thieves, and murderers. The process of issuing this particular decree violated the constitution of Thailand.
They tried to amend the constitution that would destroy the balance and control measures of democracy. The Constitutional Court has a verdict that what they did violated the constitution both in term of content and process, but they refused the verdict, which makes them become rebellion.

As Taksin has bought off a majority of MP's, he can practice dictatorship through MP' s voting behavior. Taksin' puppet government is big enough to take everything he wants from the country. It can be corrupted, and the opposition party can not exercise any democratic mechanism to stop this tyrant situation.
Thai people who want to uphold justice, democracy, and the constitution can no longer tolerate this phenomenon, and they are willing to join the protest led by Khun Sutep. There have been quite a few millions of people who joined the rallies on the 24th of November and the 9th of December. Yingluk decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, and announced that there would be an election on the 2nd of Feb., hoping that the protest would be dissolved and all the protesters would terminate their protesting activities. But that is not the case, because the House of Representatives being dissolved is not the ultimate goal of the protest. What the protesters want is to reform the political process and procedure to achieve a genuine democracy--a democracy by the people and for the people. The protesters demand that the reform take place before we hold another election. Without an intensive political reform prior to another election, Thailand will be back into the same situation as we are now. We are not opposing an election, but we want an intensive political reform before an election. This demand is possible, if Yingluk and her cabinet resign from being care taking government. The Constitution has Article 3 and Article 7 that prescribe a procedure that Thailand can have constitutional interim government and people assembly to reform Thailand's politics, so that we can have a fair and transparent election.
What we are doing now is to release Thailand from Taksin's tyrant regime--the regime that is corrupted and in no way democratic in any sense
In Response

by: jethromayham
December 21, 2013 6:13 PM
The yellow shirts will lose again so what else is new? They can not win at the ballot box so they have to resort to taking up arms or calling for a civil war.
Why can't the King step in? Everyone loves the King, right?

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