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Are Thai Protestors Violent?


20 April 2014

Witness to the 26 December 2013 fighting, Din Daeng, Bangkok

The question is straightforward but the answer is not.  First, we must delineate the main participants. This dispatch will primarily discuss the Thai protestors known as “Whistleblowers.”  The Red Shirts will be analyzed in a separate piece.

In general terms:

Anti-Government & Pro-Reform Groups:

1. PDRC – the largest group: Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee: non-violent.
2. Democrat Party – supports PDRC but with differences: non-violent.
3. Yellow Shirts (PAD Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy) – not officially participating in the current political process as an organization.
4. KPT —Kor Por Tor:  mostly non-violent but will fight. (In English: NSPRT.)
5. Farmers –  They throw rotten eggs and dump tons of paddy rice: non-violent.
6. Buddha Issara group: non-violent (guards repel attacks in self-defense).
7. Dhamma Army (Santi Asoke): non-violent.

The above groups, with the exception of the farmers, can be considered “Whistleblowers.”

Farmers have their own agenda, which is merely to get paid for rice that was stolen from them through a government pledging scheme.  Whistleblowers and the farmers are mutually supportive.

IMG 1578

8. Military – ostensibly neutral: trying to keep the peace.  Allied with KPT, Buddha Issara and PDRC.  The military is neutral in word, but in action the military supports Whistleblowers.

All the above groups are pro-monarchy. They explicitly state that their activities support the royalty as an institution, though farmers are more focused on their particular goals, and they generally make no statements regarding the monarchy. In conversation, individual farmers typically express love for the King, as is common with most Thai.

IMG 1514Red Shirt Grenade damage after attack on PDRC

Pro-Government & Pro-Yingluck/Thaksin
1. Puea Thai Party: employs violence.  This is the current ruling party.

2. Red Shirts (UDD United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship): employs violence and terrorism. There are factions within the UDD.
3. Unknown Mercenaries (“Men in Black,” “Ronin”): violent.
4. Royal Thai Police: some are violent. They mostly support the Prime Minister but individual exceptions exist.

There are factions within the Puea Thai party and the Red Shirts. These organizations will be analyzed in detail elsewhere.

Some Red Shirt leaders openly call for violence.  They sometimes announce attacks in advance.  Afterwards, they publicly celebrate incidents at their rallies, on their radio programs, and in social media such as Facebook.  Bizarrely, when critics highlight their violence, Red Shirts become angry, saying that they are not violent, even while publicly stating that they use violence and plan to continue.

IMG 4544Whistleblower rally: where is the yellow?

The pro-government Red Shirts are generally critical of the historical monarchy, but many individual members retain allegiance to the King.  Other individual members are rabidly critical of the royal institution.  Most Thai will claim to be in favor of the monarchy, but laws of lèse majesté deter them from speaking freely and frankly on the subject.

The political protests that erupted in the aftermath of the failed Puea Thai amnesty initiative are not a struggle between “Yellow Shirts” and “Red Shirts”.

Journalists who categorize the anti-government protestors as “Yellow Shirts” are guilty of intellectual laziness or of “writing while ignorant.”  Journalists who categorize this as “Yellow versus Red” should be scratched off the reading list.

Many individual members of the historical Yellow Shirt organization are involved in the latest protests, but the Yellow Shirt organization is conspicuously sitting out this fight, and members represent only a minority subset of Whistleblowers.

IMG 2889Whistleblowers: Where is the yellow? Despite proof before their eyes, some journalists still call all Whistleblowers “PDRC Yellow Shirts.”

The PAD Yellow Shirt demonstrations of years past created incredible visuals as huge crowds donned yellow.  Parts of Bangkok looked like a Yellow Sea.  Likewise, huge UDD Red Shirt crowds created a Red Sea.  A search on Google Images will return sufficient evidence of this claim.

IMG 3736Rice farmers show me their hands to prove that they are farmers.

It is difficult to imagine Thai farmer organizations collaborating with PAD Yellow Shirts like they have with PDRC, KPT, Monk Buddha Issara, and Dhamma Army.  Historically, farmers would find little common ground with a group like PDRC, but today they are warm allies.

IMG 3714Many farmers showed me their feet to prove that they are farmers, after Red Shirts said they are not real farmers and were hired by PDRC. They were real farmers.

IMG 3667Thai farmers come to Bangkok to demand payment for their stolen rice.

IMG 2260The colors of the Whistleblowers are red, white, and blue, but they do not wear shirts of any specific color. Red, white and blue are the Thai national colors.

(To be continued.)

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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