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Red Shirt Grassroots Speak Out

Thai Red Shirts (TRS) traveled to the province of Nonthaburi to hear from grassroots Red Shirt activists. The following is a summary of a discussion with more than 50 Red Shirts on the past, present, and future of their political activism.

TRS: Why did you first get involved in the Red Shirt movement?

Something went terribly wrong in this country in 2006. The injustice that we have suffered since the coup d’état compelled us to mobilize and organize.

TRS: Who among you voted for Thaksin Shinawatra?

[Everybody raises their hands]

TRS: Why did you vote for him?

He implemented policies that had an extremely positive impact on our lives. The 30 baht health care scheme in particular greatly improved our quality of living, allowing many of us to get the medical care we could not afford previously. 

The Village Development Fund also helped us build our community’s economy and infrastructure. The money was managed locally and collectively. Many of us work in agriculture so a loan system was developed to help people develop their crops.

Most importantly, Thaksin gave us faith in the democratic process and proved that politicians could respond to the needs of voters.

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Red Shirts Fight For and Against Political Systems, Not Individuals

On Saturday the UDD held a political school in Korat, the latest in a series of political education initiatives that the UDD has set up in its commitment to promote democratic participation.

Throughout the day, UDD co-leaders engaged with 2,000 local grassroots activists on the core beliefs and principles of the Red Shirt movement. While the day’s most pressing issues of amnesty for political prisoners and amending the constitution were discussed, the school focused on the movement’s long term goal of overcoming the amaat power structure that continues to undermine democracy in Thailand.

The amaat system is based on an old elite network of patronage  that survived the abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It comprises Thailand’s old moneyed elites, military generals, and high-ranking civil servants.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth explains,

The amaat system depends on military and economic power to protect the interests of the few. The system holds back economic and technological developments, and hinders social mobility. The amaat are stuck in the past.

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Why the World Should Stand With the Red Shirts

Over the course of recent months, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) has had the opportunity to speak to Red Shirt activists at UDD rallies, political schools, and in their communities around Thailand. Our discussions have provided an honest look into the values and principles that make the Red Shirt movement one of the most popular social movements in Southeast Asia, if not the world. While the West falls deeper into a state of political apathy, the Red Shirts continue to reach out to millions of Thais who are experiencing a political awakening, the likes of which Thailand has never witnessed.

Despite internationally held misconceptions that have been successfully promoted by opposition forces, Red Shirt activists are first and foremost concerned with ensuring a democratic future for Thailand. Without exception, every Red Shirt interviewed by TRS stated that their primary concern was the weak state of Thai democracy. Although the majority of Red Shirt activists are old enough to have experienced many military coups, the coup in 2006 shocked the majority of them into action because it toppled Thailand’s most popular elected figure and brought an end to an unprecedented 14 years of democratic progress.

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“We Fight for Democracy and Justice”- Red Shirt Villagers Speak Out

Thai Red Shirts (TRS) recently traveled to the Khon Kaen province in the North-Eastern region of Isaan to hear from Red Shirt villagers themselves.

The villagers shared their thoughts on everything from the rice pledging program, to revoking Abhisit’s university degree from Oxford.

TRS: Why did you first get involved in the Red Shirt movement? What was the main issue?

We were appalled by the coup in 2006. The amaat refused to accept the people’s choice. The vast majority of us are Thaksin supporters, about 95%, and we started seriously mobilizing in 2008 when we came to Bangkok as Red Shirts to join in the protests.

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Broken Body, Strong Resolve

Wasu and Kooldit at Saturday’s rally in Pathum Thani

Last weekend, at a seminar celebrating the founding of a new chapter of the UDD in Pathum Thani, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) were granted the opportunity to speak to a few of the activists present.

Two of the people at the seminar were Kooldit and her husband Wasu, both of whom had taken part in the protests in April 2010. For them, the protests had a dramatic impact on their lives.

Wasu had formed part of the barricade protecting the protestors against the military outside of Satreewadit School on April 10 2010. He was beaten severely by soldiers and woke up from a coma three days later. The beating left him with permanent brain damage and partial paralysis.

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