Shirts of different colors symbolizing various causes are far from new; Mussolini had his black shirts and Hitler his brown ones, but the Red Shirts of Thailand are about the color of blood.
In the hope of forcing new elections, the sensational spilling of plastic bags filled with blood onto the Bangkok home of the current Prime Minister has certainly garnered national attention.
The Red Shirt movement, as it has been dubbed, is determined even at the cost of human life, to force Prime Minister Abhisit Voejjajiva to dissolve the current Parliament, which they claim is illegitimate.
They will not leave Bangkok, although they did agree to scale down the size of their demonstrations in order to consolidate both their strategy and resources.
Red Shirters hope that by keeping pressure on the Prime Minister they will force a governmental change, but so far he has adamantly rejected several deadlines imposed by the protesters.
There have been several blood-hurling incidents to date, including one at the headquarters of the Democratic Party. Protesters seek aid from the international community in their “bloody cabal” and have brought their cause to the steps of the US Embassy.
Many of the more than 100,000 demonstrators were supporters of the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, whose alleged corruption forced him into exile with a little help from a military coup in 2006. Some were activists who simply opposed the military takeover.
All are united in their belief that only new elections can restore the integrity of Thai democracy.
Formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the Red Shirts claim they are anti-violence, but the threat lingers, nonetheless.
This is largely due to the outcome of a former protest last year, which culminated in police intervention after a riot in which two people died, more than 120 were injured and many buses were burned.
“Their image last year was very negative in people’s views. They were defeated then, but this year they have improved in terms of the nonviolent movement. We have to give them some credit for not using violent means. The blood-pouring stunt might not get them points, but if they are looking at a long-term fight, they’re not losing. It’s more like they’re gaining,” says Prinya Thewanaruemitkul of the Law Faculty at Bangkok’s Thammasat University.
Many of the Red Shirts come from the rural areas of Thailand. The former Prime Minister, whatever he was or wasn’t, was popular with this population because he supported the poor in many of his policies.
“These people represent the majority of Thais. They might not be educated, but they have their dreams of having a better quality of life,” said Chavalita Nittayasomboon, a 29-year-old office worker.
Well, who doesn’t?
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