Red shirts and the monarchy

6 12 2010

The Nation’s Pravit Rojanaphruk and Budsarakham Sinlapalavan have an interview with Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn the acting chairperson of the  United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship. She is the wife of jailed co-leader of this red shirt organization, Weng Tojirakarn. Tida is a former headmaster of the UDD political school and was, many years ago, with the Communist Party of Thailand.

She is asked: “Your opponents see red shirts as essentially anti-monarchist and a violent movement. What’s your view?”

Thida has already said this: “Our organisation is policy-based, which is the result of meetings of people from different walks of life, who may disagree though we cannot impose our ideas on others. For example, realising a democratic system with the King as the head of state while power will rest in the hands of the people. Even with this kind of written objective, we are attacked as wanting to overthrow the monarchy.”

Her specific response is this:

Non-violent action is very important for us. I regret that when I ran the [political] school I did not lecture on the subject myself. In fact I wanted to invite a peace activist to help teach though the person must be on the side of the people.

[As for anti-monarchist branding] you must understand who make up red shirts. We cannot use the view of one or two [red shirts] to brand 80,000 or a hundred thousand others. [R]ed shirts are people who oppose the [2006] military coup and the amataya (old bureaucratic elites). But even in one’s family, not all think alike. Not even 5 per cent [of the red shirts are anti-monarchists]. Ninety-eight to ninety-nine per cent of [UDD] members agree with our policy of fighting for a democracy with the King as the head of state.

We must acknowledge that the current king has what Thais call barami [reserved power (sic)] because of His Majesty’s work. In Britain, there are a number of people who disagree with its monarchy but why is it that they are not in trouble? [The anti-monarchist remarks among red shirts] come from people who want to pick a fight. Some, like Ji [Ungparkorn] is not even in Thailand. They may be red shirts, but they are not [UDD] member.

It is easy to see that there’s a tussle going on for control of the red shirt base. That was also seen in Ji Ungpakorn’s missive of last week. Of course, the position on the monarchy is central for the repressive Abhisit Vejjajiva regime looks for every opportunity to use lese majeste laws against opponents. So what else can Thida say if she doesn’t want to end up in prison like her husband.

Splitting the red shirts has been one of the state’s strategies for defeating them (maybe they recall the splits in the CPT). Keeping all the leaders in exile or in jail is a part of that strategy, as was the bailing of Veera Musigapong. Maintaining the momentum when leaderless is a challenge and Thida’s position and interview provides some insights.



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8 12 2010
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