Monday, December 23, 2013

Thailand: The Smaller, More Important Rally in Chiang Mai

December 23, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) - It is easy for such a story to fall through the cracks. With yet another historic turnout in Bangkok providing stunning imagery of immense crowds flooding the streets in defiance of a regime still clinging to power, a protest hundreds of miles away with only several hundred participants within the gates of a northern university seems trivial by comparison. English news services in Chiang Mai appear to completely echo regime propaganda, too craven or cowardly to even cover the event, let alone do so truthfully.

However, the bravery exhibited by these protesters up north dwarfs those crowds in Bangkok. The people of Chiang Mai, Thailand, a major city in the country's north and one of two main strongholds of regime support, came out to march in their city as hundreds of thousands marched in Bangkok. They held their protest within the gates of Chiang Mai University's Art Museum, and not long after the event began, the necessity of those gates became all too apparent.

Chiang Mai is the home of a silent majority living in perpetual fear. There is a climate of political terror enforced by one of the most notorious groups of "red shirt" regime enforcers - Rak Chiang Mai 51 (RCM51). They are notorious for political intimidation and violence. They infamously disrupted an HIV/AIDS awareness march in the city years ago and demanded that organizers check with them (instead of city officials) before organizing any future events. They also surrounded the home of an opposition radio host and as the host's father attempted to escape by truck, he was dragged from the vehicle, then brutally shot and stabbed to death. Despite surrounding the house with deadly weapons in hand, regime demagogues claim the murder was an "act of defense."

RCM51 would strike again yesterday (video above), as protesters were peacefully assembled and voicing their dissent against the Thaksin Shinawatra regime. The red shirts came in trucks and upon motorcycles, red flags in-hand. They disembarked from their vehicles and quickly attempted to gain access to the protesters. Some attempted to climb the gates, while others thrust their flag poles through them in an attempt to strike protesters on the other side. Police would arrive and defuse what could have easily escalated into yet another "incident of infamy" for the notorious thugs.

While the protests in Bangkok were as enormous as they were important, attending them took no particular courage. For the people of Chiang Mai to stand up against RCM51, especially because of their small numbers, took incredible courage. And courage is infectious.

The stranglehold the Thaksin regime has held over the country's north is loosening. RCM51's sister organization in Thailand's northeast province of Udon Thani, had to be mobilized to threaten opposition business interests in the nearby province of Khon Kaen - once thought to be "red" territory. The fact that the regime could not raise a mob within Khon Kaen itself and instead needed to "import" thugs from another province seems more of a show of desperate weakness than of any sort of strength.

The proud people of Chiang Mai who rose up against the regime are chipping away at the barriers of fear holding back political dissent against an unjust regime. As the opening they are making widens, more will pass through, and no amount of thugs, not matter how violent or vile, will be able to stop them.