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Class Struggle Between the Coloured T-Shirts in Thailand

Author(s): Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Journal: Journal of Asia Pacific Studies
ISSN 1948-0091

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 76;
Date: 2009;
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Keywords: Military Coup | Thailand | Red Shirts | Yellow Shirts

The political crisis and unrest which we have seen in Thailandover the last four and a half years, represents a serious class war between the rich conservative elites (Royalist Yellow Shirts) and the urban and rural poor (Red Shirts). It is not a pure class war. Due to a vacuum on the Left in the past, millionaire and populist politician, Taksin Shinawat, has managed to provide leadership to the Red Shirts. The labour movement, as an organised force, has remained on the fringes of this crisis, despite the fact that individual workers have been politicised and are active. Thisclass war has turned Thailand upside down and raised important political questions about the roles of many institutions which we have to try to answer. The actions by the conservative elites have forced millions of ordinary people to reject the mainstream ideas about loyalty to the Monarchy. The taboo about criticising the Palace and the King’s advisors has been broken. The courts have been exposed as merely puppets of those in power and the mainstream media has openly taken the side of the elites. Even traditional Civil Society groups, such as NGOs networks and academics have failed to defend freedom of speech and democracy, joining with the conservative elites and the military in their attempts tototally undermine the democratic process and all forms of social justice. The Red Shirt movement, starting out as passive voters, who supported Taksin and his political party, have now started to organise themselves into a grass roots pro-democracy movement. As the crisis progresses, Taksin’s leadership of this movement has started to be undermined by his willingness to compromise with some sections of the elite, although he still remains very popular.
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