Home > Uncategorized > Red + Yellow = Chaos?

Red + Yellow = Chaos?

image from the NY Times

Since March, Thailand’s “red shirts” have been camped out in protest in Bangkok against Prime Minister Abhisit. On March 17, the protesters dumped their own (donated) blood onto the office and home of the Prime Minister–talk about making a statement.  Only 2 years ago, it was the “yellow shirts” who shut down Bangkok’s airports in protest against the government, demanding that allies of the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (of the People’s Power Party) resign from government. Their protests led to a “state of emergency” for two weeks in September 08. Today, the “reds”, who support Shianawatra, are demanding new elections.

So just who are these color-coded factions?

The Reds: mostly working-class, rural Thais from the North & Northeast  & supporters of former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra

The Yellows: (aka The People’s Alliance for Democracy) power-base mostly in the South, oppose Shinawatra & his allies, and have significant support from Thailand’s elite

The stalemate continues. In 2008, the protests ended when the Constitutional Court of Thailand dissolved the governing People’s Power Party and banned its leaders from politics for 5 years. Throughout these conflicts, the role of Thailand’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej,  has been especially interesting. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and its monarch is revered by the people and protected from defamation and public criticism. Although the King is considered “above” politics, he has intervened several times throughout his long reign. In the 2008 conflict, the PAD (the yellows) claimed they were defending the monarchy.  However, the King remained silent throughout the protests.

Worryingly, the current situation seems to be getting increasingly violent. Two dozen bombs have exploded since the protests began. Last week, Bangkok’s main commercial district was forced to shut down, at an estimated loss of up to $10 million each day. Some kind of orange compromise is certainly necessary, but even through new elections, the animosity, stemming from class and ideological differences, is unlikely to fade. I am heading to Thailand in July for a few weeks of travel. Let’s hope I’m not still blogging about this then…

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