Organizing the anti-red shirt movement

1 04 2010

PPT understands that there are a lot of red shirts who continue to have faith in Thaksin Shinawatra. Likewise, we understand that there are numerous people who hate Thaksin. Many of these people don’t need to be organized with funds from their respective sides to demonstrate their love or hate. As the mainstream media continually points out, some are organized and funded. However, this claim is usually only made for the red shirts. PPT is continually amazed at how dumb or just ridiculously biased that media is when it comes to Thaksin opponents.

Pravit Rojanaphruk has argued that the mainstream media displays bias but also displays elitist attitudes. PPt thinks they are also sometimes racist attitudes towards “country bumpkins” who are dark-skinned, lazy and stupid. Racism and class warfare – and it is these same people who say class analysis is misplaced for Thailand. Such arrogance is breathtaking.

PPT wants to look briefly at the sudden flood of stories over just a few days claiming the rise of an anti-red shirt movement, while also claiming this “movement” is somehow unbiased, neutral or representatives of the “silent majority.” The most recent of these stories are in the Bangkok Post and The Nation on 1 April 2010. They amount to either exceptionally poor journalism or are simply propaganda.

The Nation writes of a “rapidly expanding network of academics, businessmen and civic-society organisations has urged peace-loving citizens to join forces tomorrow in a bid to counter the red-shirt protesters.” The Bangkok Post tells its readers that the Federation of Thai Tourism Association opposing the red shirt rally. Apparently the “federation insisted yesterday it was not taking sides but it could not stand still while the country was in limbo.” The Post also writes of another group called “People Who Love Peace” who have “issued a statement voicing their disagreement with the red shirts’ demand for a dissolution of the House and what it said was an attempt to amend the constitution to whitewash wrongdoers.”

Sounds like the development of a “movement.” But is it something more? It is widely known that Kraisak Choonhavan, Panitan Wattanayagorn and other members of the Democrat Party have been reported to be working together with these groups to arrange protests and to assist them with strategy.

The venue for one of the organized rallies is to be Chulalongkorn University. In recent years, the administration of the university has become the major academic bastion of yellow shirts and other royalists, and the links between the palace and the university have been greatly enhanced. The administration is unashamedly politically aligned to royalists and the Democrat Party. Imagine then allowing a red shirt meeting!

A spokesperson for the event at Chulalongkorn is Three-dao Aphaiwong, a lecturer, who says that the 2 April “rally was aimed at all citizens, businessmen and civic-society organisations who support the cause of peaceful conflict resolution. She stressed that the movement was non-partisan and “color-blind” as far as the current political rifts were concerned.

A “council of civic-society organisations in Bangkok” is also attending. It is made up of “1,800 self-defence, civil-rights and other communities in Bangkok.” These groups are already shown ( to have been strongly associated with People’s Alliance for Democracy activists.

What are the objectives of the unbiased, peace-loving, color-blind “movement”? Here they are:

* “A show of unity for peace against some groups of people.”

* “People who have occupied public roads and the right of way are asked to disperse, as Bangkok residents have been held hostage by their fight against the government in the past several weeks.”

* “People who have insulted the monarchy are asked to stop doing so.”

* “the movement is against a House dissolution at an inappropriate time.”

* “The movement is against amending the Constitution to benefit wrongdoers.”

No bias there…. Just the platform of PAD and the Democrat Party combined. At least the Bangkok Post manages to see this coalition as anti-red shirt.

Color blind means wearing pink: “Please wear pink. (If that is inconvenient, please wear any colour except red),” said the organizers. Pink is the Chulalongkorn University’s color and it is also the currently most popular color for royalists.

The unbiased Three-dao Aphaiwong is, in fact, closely aligned to the PAD (see this web page, in Thai, where anti-Thaksin activities are prominently listed). It is appropriate that the family name Aphaiwong is included here. The lords of Battambang are well known politicians and business people. Thira Aphaiwong is vice president of the Bangkok Bank. Khuang Aphaiwong was one of the founders of the Democrat Party and its first leader. Ironically, his third term as prime minister and first at the head of the Democrat Party began following the 1947 military coup and produced the most royalist government and constitution since 1932. Abhisit Vejjajiva might see some relationship to his own rise to the premiership.

So these groups are not necessarily independent, unbiased or organic. The mainstream media should not paint these groups in these terms when they are biased, royalist and yellow. PPT knows that there are true believers on the yellow/pink side. But at the same time, reporters should not be seen to be playing fast and loose with facts and unashamedly promoting “their side.” Is there a risk that this elitist opposition to red shirts, with military support and media connivance is mining a deep-seated fascism lurking amongst particular right-wing groups?

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