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

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid