Monday, April 7, 2014

Red Shirts Come to Bangkok

A Red Shirt supporter with photos of Thaksin and Yingluck.

The Red Shirts, the populist supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, current PM Yingluck Shinawatra, rallied in the Bangkok suburbs this weekend. 

Anti-government protestors led by Suthep Thaugsuban have been rallying and marching and protesting against the Shinawatra family's involvement in Thai politics for months now. The protests have sometimes been bloody but the government is still in power. The Thai courts are now involved and there is concern in the Red Shirt ranks that the courts may do something the protestors have not been able to do - bring down the government. If the courts rule against Yingluck, she could be forced to step down immediately. Suthep is waiting in the wings ready to form his own government and "reform" Thai politics. 
Red Shirt supporters reach out to wash Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikua's hands as he walks through a crowd of Reds. 

This is a scenario the Red Shirts are familiar with because only a few years ago the popularly elected Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, (then running in the Thai Rak Thai party, the forerunner to Pheu Thai) and the hand picked favorite of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, was forced out of office by the courts because he hosted a cooking show while he was in government. The court ruled that it was a conflict of interest and forced his government out. That ruling has been called a "judicial coup" by Red Shirt supporters and it set up the conditions that allowed the Thai Democrats to form a minority government, which in turn led to the 2010 Red Shirt protests and subsequent military crackdown against the Red Shirts. 
Red Shirts at the rally Sunday. 

The Red Shirts are concerned that conditions are ripe for a second judicial coup. They vow to defend the government. The weekend rally in the suburbs was to show support for the government. 

The protestors in Bangkok vow to overthrow the government. Their ongoing protests are to further that end. There appears to be no middle ground. 
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