Red Shirts are back

Trip Start Nov 15, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A quick tutorial on 2011 Thai politics:  There are two forces in Thai politics, the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts.  The Red Shirts have won two elections, installed corrupt governments,and were both removed by Yellow Shirt-backed  military coup.  The Yellow Shirts are currently in power, and when the next election is held the Red Shirts will undoubtedly win again.

Yellow Shirts are popular in Bangkok and the middle and upper classes.  Red Shirts are popular in the rural north of Thailand, especially Chiang Mai (where I am) and the Northeast.  Red Shirt governments were kinda like Huey Long, they spread the wealth while liberally dipping their own beaks.

In April of last year the Red Shirts occupied Bangkok for two months demanding the government resign and new elections be held.  After two months, the government declared a State of Emergency, attacked the protesters, killing 91 and scattering the rest back home.

The emergency decree was lifted last month.  Two days ago 60,000 red shirts came to Bangkok --press number have been revised upwards--for the first assembly since then.  Here is a Christian Science monitor article on it:

Last night empty troop transports were on the move in Chiang Mai.  Cops (not soldiers) were stopping folks and asking for ID--even me.  This morning it took me one hour to get to the farm (usually takes 25 minutes) because of the new checkpoints.

Regardless of one's sentiments on the internal Thai conflict, the Red Shirt tactic has never made sense to me.  In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes: "Know your enemy; know yourself'", teaching that a combatant should project his strength against his enemy's weakness and minimize the effectiveness of his enemy's similar tactic.

While this book was written 2500 years ago, one need only analyze recent SE Asian warfare from
Dien Bien Phu to Hamburger Hill to observe its effective application by guerillas against overwhelmingly superior forces.

Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai is the second largest.  Red shirt supporters are poor rice farmers and most of them live within a couple of hours of Chiang Mai. Going to the Yellow Shirt stronghold of Bangkok is a burden on them.

Many of the soldiers here are from the North, and they are jokingly referred to as "Watermelon Soldiers", green on the outside, red on the inside. 

I noticed from the day I got here that the Northern Thais are not smiling.   When they make eye contact or conversation with me they always smile, but they used to smile all the time.

They are not unfriendly in any way, in fact, they are kind and engaging--but they are unhappy.

As always, as the white guy, I am as safe as in my mother's arms, so no worries, friends.
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