After the military-backed Democrat Party government of Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency and issued arrest warrants for pro-democracy Red Shirt leaders, the government has attempted to close down all internet and satellite media or websites which don’t tow the government line.
Since late March the Red Shirts have been holding peaceful and disciplined protests in Bangkok. They have not destroyed anything or held weapons of any kind. Their demands are for the dissolution of parliament and immediate fresh elections. The military-backed government is totally opposed to elections, since the Democrat Party has never ever won a majority.
The Red Shirt protests are in stark contrast to the Yellow Shirt PAD demonstrators in 2008. The PAD used violence and carried weapons. They occupied and wrecked Government House and seized and shut down the international airports. No one has been punished for these criminal acts. The PAD demand that the democratic space be reduced because they believe that the majority of the people do not deserve the vote. The Democrat Party has worked hand in hand with the PAD and the army. Yet Hans van Baalen Dutch MEP, President of the Liberal International, supports the military-backed government in Thailand and claims that a crackdown on Red Shirts would defend the rule of law in Thailand.
Abhisit justifies his state of emergency on the grounds that the Red Shirts are blocking shopping centers! This is a lie, one of many lies told by the Thai Prime Minister. Another lie is that the Red Shirt media is advocating violence. They have done nothing of the kind. Yesterday’s brief invasion of the parliament grounds by Red Shirts was in response to CS gas canisters being thrown at the peaceful crowd outside.
Today the Red Shirts went to their satellite TV station to ask for it back, yet foreign media like the BBC claim wrongly claim that the Red Shirts were trying to “occupy” the satellite station. What they wanted was for the transmissions to be reinstated.
The Red Shirts are a mass movement of workers and peasants. They are demanding a restoration of democracy. Most support former PM Taksin because his government introduced Thailand’s first ever universal health care scheme and pro-poor policies. Foreign media often incorrectly portray the Red Shirts as rural people. They are poor people from urban and rural areas, including Bangkok. They represent the vast majority of Thai citizens. They proudly call themselves “serfs” in a class war with the authoritarian elites.
Record of the Abhisit Government
The Democrat Party took over the government after:
- Continuously criticizing the Taksin government for using state funds for the poor
- Refusing to take part in the elections of 2006 because they knew they would lose
- A military coup in September 2006
- A military Constitution was introduced in 2007 which decreased the democratic space
- They lost the December 2007 election
- They supported the violent PAD demonstrations which seized Government House and closed down the international airports
- The Royalist Courts were used twice to dissolve Red Shirt parties which won majorities
- Corrupt politicians were bullied and bribed by the army to change sides and support the Democrat Party
Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a Thai socialist, currently in exile in the U.K. His latest book Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy will be published in April 2010.