Thailand crisis

Thailand is in news during the past few weeks. There is a talk about red shirts and yellow shirts. Who are they and what is their role in the current crisis.

Thailand for a long period has been the bastion of US and western interests in South East Asia. During the Vietnam War Thailand was the main base of operations for the U.S forces. Thailand is an absolute monarchy with the semblance of democracy. In reality Thailand is ruled by an elite linked to the royal family and coterie backed by military.

In the 1950s Thailand had a strong Communist Party based in the North and East of the country. Improvised North and East provided fertile ground for the communist rebellion. U.S while busy with the war also trained the Thai army on counter insurgency operations and even participated in the counter insurgency. For U.S Thai communist party was an expansion of communist threat to it's interests in  South east Asia.

After a long counter insurgency operation Thai communist party was crushed in 60s and many of the leaders went underground. But the people in the North and East remained poor . Thailand had successive military governments until 1982 when a student revolt overthrew the military government and established pseudo democracy dominated still be the same elite. In the meantime Thailand was encouraged as a tourist destination. In reality Thailand became a flesh pot to where paedophiles  around the world flooded. It's tourist attraction was based on sex. Poverty and misery was rampant in the country side and urban areas. To outside world Thailand was portrayed as a peaceful country with a revered king. In reality country was ruled by corrupt royalist politicians.

Things took a dramatic turn when Thaksin Shinawatra won a landslide victory in 2001. Although Thaksin belonged to the upper class as a very successful businessman he came from North. Once he came to power he tried to carry out minor reforms to help the poor in the North and East. People in the North and East constitute the majority of the population. He was reelected in 2005 again with a massive majority. His reforms did help to alleviate some poverty in North East.

However ruling class in the country could not tolerate even the minor reforms carried out by Thaksin. They organized demonstrations and carried out the military coup to overthrew Thaksin government. Thaksin was sent into exile.

During this process people in the North and East and urban poor became politically involved. Ex communist party members joined the pro Thaksin movements and Red Shirts were born.

Red shirt leadership consist of the so called moderates who are pro royalist and radicals who want to abolish democracy. They were united in their opposition to military and military backed governments. They want genuine elections and redistribution of wealth. However Royalist elite is totally opposed to it and military continuously intervened to remove any pro Thaksin government elected by the people.

In march this year Red shirts came to Bangkok in tens of thousands and demonstrated for genuine elections. On the 19th of May these peaceful demonstrations have been brutally suppressed by Thai military.

But Thai people will continue their struggle for genuine democracy and redistribution of wealth at whatever cost. The brutal suppression also shows the true face Thai so called democracy and "revered king". Thai people are not even allowed to make a comment about their revered king. Any adverse comment lands the person in the prison.

Suppression of the peaceful demonstrations also show the true face of the foreign backers of the Thai ruling elite. U.S and western countries are quick to criticize Burmese military government . But they haven't said a single word about the military government in Thailand.

May 2010