Red shirts, lese majeste and regime strategy

28 02 2011

It appears that the current regime strategy is not to confront and challenge all red shirts but to divide and conquer. The regime, through military intelligence and the police, as well as through negotiations, are seeking to split red shirts into groups that are more moderate and those considered more radical. The definition of radicalism appears to revolve around the position of the monarchy.

The strategy seems that this strategy is gaining some traction if the buzz on blogs and in emails is to be believed.

The red shirts, of course, could easily have managed a split amongst themselves without regime incentives, but it is clear that the regime’s approach is causing considerable angst amongst red shirts. For instance, it is remembered that red shirt leaders have twice surrendered to the authorities despite pleas and demands from demonstrators that surrender not be an option. That is one example and there are many more amongst a movement that is large and diverse.


PPT is not about to rehearse the debates amongst red shirts here, for there is a useful thread at New Mandala that begins with a post by James Taylor.

One of the major debating points, no doubt fostered by the regime and its supporters, is the claim that the “moderate” red shirts are doing deals with the government that involve selling out more “radical” red shirts like Surachai Sae Dan while pushing aside and diminishing the innovative actions by Sombat Boonngamanong. There are other claims that the released leadership has abandoned the rank-and-file red shirts still in jail and that it is in the regime’s interest for the released leaders to regain control of the red shirt movement.

Sombat and friend

While PPT is not about to agree that Surachai is a “charlatan,” as Ji Ungpakorn claims, we do think that Ji identifies some plausible elements of the state strategy to divide the appeal of the red shirts (although he doesn’t necessarily put it in these terms). Most significant for us is his identification of some of the old war horses that engaged in similar campaigns during the state’s psych-ops war on the CPT in the 1970s and 1980s, using operatives who had split from the CPT.


Some of the current claims about the red shirt leadership come with considerable embellishment. It appears, for example, that red shirt leaders have not abandoned those still imprisoned by the regime. And, while there are those amongst the red shirts who readily accept conspiracy claims, many in the rank-and-file do seem to relish having the leadership out of jail.

At the same time, many in the red shirt leadership need to ensure that the Democrat Party and its cronies are not permitted any free kicks should the regime decide that an election is winnable and dissolve parliament.

The regime’s strategy to split the movement is clear; keeping such a diverse mass of followers together is no easy task when the vast resources of the royalist state are arrayed against them.



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