Monday, January 6, 2014

Taking a Look Back: Red Shirt Protest in Bangkok 2009 - 2010 (Part 3)

In the third and final part of my retrospective of 2009 - 2010 Red shirt protest in Bangkok, I will show you the aftermath of the military crackdown on May 19, 2010. You can catch up on my first two parts of the account here and here. The photographs shown here were taken on 20 and 21 of May 2010. This time, it's best not to let words get in the way, so I will ask more the photographs tell the story.

May 20, 2010

Right: Thaksin-loving People, left: Abhisit, murderer
Foot Massage

Red shirt leaders, many would take prominent position in Yingluck's government,
including the man who order the mob to burn the city (top-right)

May 21, 2010

Improvised shield

Same place as the day before...
...but the fire's still burning

For scale, notice the men on the left

One of the most popular shopping street in Bangkok...completely empty
So why do I only publish this now, when the biggest anti-government protest recently took place and more protests, including 'Shut down Bangkok', are being planned and about to be carried out in a matter of days?

Recent events generated lots of debate on the legitimacy of the current anti-government protest. While unprecedented number of people publicly support the movement, there are others who are against the protest or are on the fence on the issue. Some of the arguments that are frequently being presented to explain their position are there are no difference between the Red shirt protest and current anti-government protest. Both teams are disruptive to the lives of the people in Bangkok, interrupting work, school, business, traffic and general livelihood for everyone in the city. Some would say it is better for all sides involved to sit down and talk this over to find a peaceful solution and end this massive and prolonged protest altogether.

Here are my response to the detractors and the skeptics. Firstly, I can't help but feel that they are naive and ignorant beyond belief. Given the current situation and the culture of the people of this country, civic discourse is not possible. It is not possible with the on-going protest and it was not possible in time of peace. It never has been. Civic discourse or any political discussions have never been part of the Thai culture. We simply do not engage in important conversation. Reasons? It's rude, impolite or it's an inappropriate topic for discussion. Best not to rattle anybody's cages or ruffle anyone's feathers. So we keep our silence, until we can't stay silent anymore. And the only way for the government to listen and take notice is to protest, make a lot of noise and make ourselves heard. So if you still think talk is the solution, ask yourself when was the last time you really talk about it to someone.
Then there are people who flat-out stated that there is no difference between the Red shirt and the current anti-government movement. But as the protest gains momentum, they accuse the protesters of being forcing their ideas on others and being self-righteous, challenging their motives and legitimacy along the way. This is like saying that during World War II, both the Axis and the Allied forces were wrong because they both fought in the war. Both groups of protesters came to Bangkok and made a lot of fuss (to put it lightly) along the way, but that is where the similarity ends. The anti-government protest are made up of Thai citizens from all walks of lives, the rich and the poor, urban and rural, 'Thai' Thai and ethnic Thai, Buddhists and Muslims, even former Red shirt members who now see and understand the corruption and wrong-doings of the current government. We are peaceful and come unarmed, except for whistles. We are open and honest about the motives and objectives behind our demonstration and would love to have all Thais to join us, from ordinary citizen, Red shirt, Yellow shirt, the private sectors, government officials, even the police and the military. We do this because we believe in hearts of hearts, that it is the right thing to do and the future of the country depends on it.

So far I may sound really harsh and critical of the opposition to the anti-government protest. But I am not here to publicly shame or attack them, but to provide counter argument from my point of view. Who I really want to publicly shame and attack is the member of both local and international press and media for failing to perform their functions to inform the public. The state media intentionally manipulated facts and figures regarding the number of protester turnout at every major demonstrations. The international press, and I'm referring to major, big name news organizations here, consistently over-simplify and misrepresent the nature of the political situation, the conflict and the people involved, failing to provide any context or in-depth analysis to the international audience. For that, it is difficult for the protester to gather any support from the international communities but instead are being viewed as anti-democratic. The free press are supposed to be the greatest tool of democratic process for the people, but here it has utterly failed. The proof of this failure is the some of the opinions that are so misinformed they can contribute nothing of substance to the discussion.

Wow... that turned out to be quite a rant...

The protest is not yet over. And I feel there are still a lot to talk about and discuss over before this comes to an end, whatever that end may be. This is a complex issue that cannot be explained in detailed by one person in an article. But with this series of posts I made here will set the record straight, clarify any misconception of the characters of the two very different protest groups, or at least start a conversation.

Thank you for reading.