Jim Taylor on tragedy and loss

23 12 2010

Dr. Jim Taylor teaches anthropology at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. He has been working on Thailand for many years, and as readers of New Mandala will know, has been a strong supporter of the red shirts and a trenchant critic of the current regime. He has a piece in the New Internationalist that may be of interest to PPT readers.

Some of the points he makes:

He suggests that, in “alliance with the media, an intense nationalistic information campaign reached into the heart of society, in which no other voices were allowed to be heard.”

This contradicts Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who repeatedly claims that Thailand’s media is freer  now than ever before. PPT can imagine that some will agree with this, so long as their media hasn’t been closed , blocked or censored in other ways.

The Red Shirts are properly known as ‘Red for the whole land’ (daeng thang-paendin); or, in English, the National United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, and are one of the most significant social movements to appear in modern Thailand.

The Red Shirts articulate a specific set of concerns in the context of a conflict situation which challenges the legitimacy of existing dominant relations of power. They are engaged in a dispute which directly and indirectly affects the distribution of power within society.

PPT would have to agree. While opponents see the red shirts as paid minions of Thaksin Shinawatra, there’s no doubt that the red shirts have been developing a struggle that has been innovative for Thailand and displays a determination that scares the jewels out of establishment’s crown.

Taylor argues that there was no outcry over the killings in April and May 2010 because: “most protesters are the subaltern – mainly from ethnic Northern Thai and Lao-speaking provinces rendered valueless in the élite-middleclass discourse on directed democracy. They were referred to in the media as mindless ‘buffalo’ and, as in one high class women’s magazine, as a group of dirty ‘foot cleaning-rags’, implying that the subaltern should stay down under the élite’s feet. In the persisting sentiments of traditional Thai society, the categories of person based on class/social position are more clearly divided post crackdown, as élites gather the moral high ground and the Red Shirts are further deprecated by urban bourgeoisie.

As we completed this post, PPT noted a comment by Jim Taylor at New Mandala. In the context of tragedy and loss, this is also worth posting here:

[A]nother red shirt community leader murdered in Chiangmai, 51 year old Noi Banjong “Daeng Kotchasarn” แดง คชสาร, a tuk-tuk driver; his wife washes clothes for a living; he has one nine year old child. He was a voluneer DJ for 92.5 Red Community Radio; also red guard for “Love Chiangmai 51 Group”. He was shot 18 times and, if that was not bad enough, had speed planted in his hand (it is presumed that this was done by the authorities). His ID card was taken and was recognised only when his picture appeared in the media. He said days before that he felt he was being followed by five men in a Black Toyota pickup (the same vehicle that shot young Krisna Klaahaan กฤษณะ กล้าหาญ as I reported Sep 8, 2010 in NM)…[full story on Thai enews: http://thaienews.blogspot.com/2010/12/5_22.html.

This latest event is also the subject of a brief report at The Nation.


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