News / Asia

Yellow Shirts Carry On in Thailand's Anti-Government Heartland

Noodle shop owner and Yellow Shirt supporter Prasert Tangrukmuang has cut-out cartoons covering his walls mocking former PM Thaksin Shinawatra in Udon Thani,Thailand
Noodle shop owner and Yellow Shirt supporter Prasert Tangrukmuang has cut-out cartoons covering his walls mocking former PM Thaksin Shinawatra in Udon Thani,Thailand

Multimedia

Audio

Thailand's poor rural northeast is the heartland for the Red Shirt protesters who occupied central Bangkok for two months, until the government broke up their camp last week. But, it is also home to a minority of pro-government Yellow Shirts, who live uneasily alongside the reds.

Red Shirt supporters proudly call Udon Thani the red capital of Thailand. The city is a hub in the country's poor agricultural northeast, where support for exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is high.

It is also one of a number of cities in the north that erupted into protest after troops stormed the Red Shirt's Bangkok camp last week, part of a military crackdown that caused at least 50 deaths.

In Udon Thani, crowds attacked and burned government buildings, and the city, like many places in the country, has been under a state of emergency.

But Udon Thani is also home a small minority of Yellow Shirts, a rival movement whose street protests helped prompt the 2006 coup that removed Mr. Thaksin. They say that life here among the Reds is a mix between peaceful coexistence and daily mistrust.

The Yellow Shirts draw much of their support from middle-class and wealthy Thais, and they consider Mr. Thaksin to have been corrupt and authoritarian.

Rungsri Suprachaisakorn, who owns a car dealership, is one of the Yellow Shirt leaders in Udon Thani, says Mr. Thaksin was a corrupt leader who bought the support of local people with cheap health care and low-interest village loans. He says local people are good-hearted but gullible, and have been taken advantage of by the Red Shirts.

He says it is hard being a Yellow Shirt in a red town, where many in the security forces and government are sympathetic to the Reds. Two years ago, he said police stood by as Red Shirts attacked a Yellow-Shirt rally he had organized. He was left with broken thumbs and had to have 11 stitches in his head.

He says he has received death threats in the past but does not feel unsafe. Since he was attacked, the Yellows have brought in their own security guards from around the country to protect his rare rallies.

But in daily life, other Yellow Shirts say there is little tension.

At Prasert Tangrukmuang's noodle shop in downtown Udon Thani, the only thing red is the broth he serves up. Prasert is a Yellow Shirt and has cut-out cartoons covering his walls mocking Mr. Thaksin.

He says both Yellow- and Red-Shirt supporters come to his restaurant. The cartoons have caused few arguments, he says. Most customers just laugh.

Still, in everyday interactions, the polarization of Thai politics comes through.

Nattaya Patoomtip is a Yellow Shirt and an art teacher who travels from Udon Thani to teach in the countryside, where support for the Red Shirts is nearly universal, says she keeps discussions civil, but tries to educate village Red Shirts, who she says are ignorant.

She says Red Shirt supporters are buffalos and have no brains. She says what really upsets her is the disrespect she thinks they show for the king.

It is such language that highlights the political divisions in Thailand. Many in the country's urban elite and middle class routinely use such insults when referring to rural residents.

And Red Shirts say those insults are used as an excuse to deny rural voters and the poor a say in the nation's politics.

Danuch Tanterdtid, another Yellow Shirt leader, strikes a more conciliatory tone. He says relations with most of people here are still good, and he has decided not to use bodyguards, despite tensions following the Bangkok violence.

Udon Thani Yellow Shirt leader Danuch Tanterdtid, 25 May 2010
Udon Thani Yellow Shirt leader Danuch Tanterdtid, 25 May 2010

"They fight with the government, they do not fight with Yellow, so they do not do something bad to the Yellow. They burn down the city hall, they went to burn the governor's office, after that they tried to invade the Bangkok Bank."

He says he understands why the Red Shirts are so popular. Mr. Thaksin was the first leader to really listen to the northeast's rural poor, and so it is understandable they are loyal to him.

Still, he thinks the Red Shirts have thrown their lot in with a corrupt leadership.

The Red Shirts, however, say the current government is illegitimate, after the military ousted Mr. Thaksin and court rulings removed two elected pro-Thaksin governments. And in places like Udon Thani, they are angry about last week's military crackdown on their protest.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid