Monday, December 23, 2013

Thailand: Don't be a "Red Shirt"

December 23, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) - The Thai anti-regime protests of 2013 have been more or less peaceful. Three unprecedented mass rallies have been mobilized in the past two months with most of the capital city turned into a festive display of dissent against the current regime of unelected dictator Thaksin Shinawatra who openly runs the country through his proxy, nepotist appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Image: Red shirts in 2009. Their violence and intimidation are legendary. It is ugly when they do it, it is ugly when you do it. If your movement truly is better, don't just say it is, prove it through your actions. 

Even in confrontations with police, protesters have demonstrated immense discipline in removing barriers and gaining access to heavily defended government buildings without targeting the police themselves or causing bodily harm. The only bloodshed that has occurred was when the regime unleashed black-clad gunmen to wreck deadly havoc during clashes between angry students and regime supporters who had been rallying next to their university 24 hours a day for over a week.

This is in stark contrast to pro-Thaksin protests in 2010 where "red shirt" leaders brought with them 300 heavily armed, professional mercenaries who on April 10, 2010 opened fire on riot troops, killing 7 including the commanding officer, and triggered gunfights that would last weeks and claim up to 92 lives. The culminating act of Thaksin's red shirts was mass arson that left parts of the city destroyed. (scroll down to "2. Myth of Double Standards - the "Red Shirts'" 2010 Protest was NOT the Same")

The reason anti-regime protests have remained so peaceful is because of skilled leadership as well as well informed participants. When problems do occur, they are addressed promptly. During yesterday's mass rally, in all of the hundreds of thousands of people that turned up, only one incident took place. Several protesters began harassing journalists who they perceived were unfairly covering the day's events. Despite there being no injuries, such behavior is unacceptable. In the Nation's article, "Suthep not happy with press treatment, resolves to do better," it was reported that:
Rally leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday said he was not happy with the incident on Sunday in which protestors surrounded and yelled at TV journalists for what they claimed biased reporting about the protest.

Suthep said he will assign a specific area for TV mobile trucks and the media to prevent any reoccurrence of scuffle between the protesters and the press. He was speaking after meeting with representatives of the Thai Journalists Association and Thai Broadcast Journalists Association at the Rajdamnoen rally site.
While the burden of responsibility does ultimately fall upon the protest leaders who seem to be handling that burden well, it may be useful to have protesters help police themselves. This can be done easily by reminding them:
"Don't be Red Shirts!" 

In fact, one of the many reasons people have joined the protests is to stop the abuses, bigotry, vitriol, intimidation, violence, and outright criminality of the regime's enforcers called "red shirts." The red shirts are notoriously violent - having provided cover and aid for the militants fighting government forces in Bangkok in 2010, and having been involved in grotesque displays of politically motivated violence including the shooting and hacking to death of an opposition DJ's father, after red shirts surrounded their home, baying for blood.

In recent weeks, red shirts in the northern province of Chiang Mai have surrounded homes of political opponents and even schools who have participated in recent dissent against the regime. The silent majority is rising up, breaking through the barriers of fear specifically because the current protests offer a better alternative and more progressive methods for achieving them, than the red shirts.

"Don't be a Red Shirt," if you want to see this movement grow. "Don't be a Red Shirt," if you want people to embrace you means as well as your end. "Don't be a Red Shirt" if you want people to trust you and support you, not simply  fear you. "Don't be a Red Shirt" if you truly believe your movement, ideas, and methods are better than the regime's - if they are - prove it with your actions as well as your words.

For every problem we are faced with, including biased media, there is a way to rise above it and defeat it without lifting our fists in anger. We must use our minds and intelligence. For biased journalists, save that energy confronting them in the streets with violence, and use it instead to create your own media presence online, on the airwaves and in the streets.

Suthep Thaugsuban  was right to condemn the scuffle and to take actions in the future to protect journalists. Leaders must also impress upon protesters that protecting journalists isn't just about "looking better," it is about being better. Don't be a red shirt!