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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid