Sonntag, 31. März 2013

The Red Shirt protest - A personal diary - Part 1: March 2010

Zur deutschen Version

A personal diary - Part 2: 1. - 17. April 2010
The Red Shirt protests - Part 3: 18. - 20. April 2010 - the barricade and the arrival of the security forces
The Red Shirt protests - Part 4: 21. - 30. April 2010 - Mob Rules
Die Rothemden-Proteste - Teil 5: 01. - 14. Mai - grausamer Mai/ "Cruel May" - พฤษภาอำมหิต- Teil/Part 1 - (German Version, only English captions, headlines and some English text translations)
The Red Shirt protests - Part 6: 15. - 18. Mai - "Cruel May" - พฤษภาอำมหิต - Part 2
The Red Shirt Protests - Part 7: May 19 - the crackdown
The Red Shirt protests - Part 8: 21. May 2010 - after the crackdown

Just recently while I was sorting and filing my photos of the past several years I took a closer look at the hundreds of photos I had taken during the RED SHIRT protests from March to May 2010. Some of them I posted a long time ago, unsorted and mostly without explanations or comments on Facebook and Flickr.
And now, only a few weeks away from the third anniversary of the brutal crackdowns of April 10th and May19th 2010 I decided to create a personal chronology of those events (including a small prologue).


The first protests started shortly after the September Coup in 2006 that ousted elected  Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Several goups like Giles Ungpakorns 19 September Network, Supinya Klangnarong and her friends, the NUDD (National United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship), which later developed into today's UDD (United Front for Democracy against Dictatoship) and many others opposed the military government and the new constitution of 2007 introduced by the military junta.

Tank with garlands of flowers
After the so-called  "Bloodless Coup" aka "Party Coup" thousands of Royalists and opponents of the Thaksin government flooded to the Royal Plaza at the Chulalongkorn Monument to celebrate the soldiers, who were presented with flowers, flower garlands, cakes, treats and drinks.

"We mourn for the people's constition (of 1997)"
Supinya Klangnarong (center) and fellow campaigners at the Monument of Democracy.

Others, like Supinya Klangnarong and her friends, started immediately anti-coup-protests. After the coup the junta imposed martial law, and gatherings of more than five people were forbidden. So they decided to stage TWO protests at the Monument of Democracy at the SAME time One group with four participants and the other group with three protesters. Even the policemen, when they turned up, were chuckling when Supinya told them about the TWO protest groups.
Many people driving past this small rally site were honking or beckoning at the protesters.

The first free elections after the coup resulted in Samak Sundaravej (a very controversial figure in his own party) becoming Prime Minister of Thailand, an ally of self exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and head of the newly founded People's Power Party (Phak Palang Prachachon). Soon after the elections the PAD (the anti-Thaksin movement) started their anti-goverment protests again and occupied Government House and later Suvarnabhumi-Airport. They accused Samak of election fraud . They also accused him of being Thaksin's puppet and that Thaksin is the one who really rules the country.

On 20.June 2008 Yellow Shirts at Nakhon Pathom Road tried to storm the Government House. On August the 26th they finally succeeded and occupied the compound.

The PAD occupied the Government House on August 26th.

PAD-Protester at the Government House

The judicial coup (see link below) in December 2008 against the PPP and Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Samak's successor ( Samak had to step down after violating constituional laws by participating in a television cooking show) as Prime Minister, lead to new unrests. The Constitutional Court decided  that a leading party member, Yongyoth Tiyapairat, was guilty of vote buying  and dissolved the PPP. Executive members of the PPP were banned from politics for five years. In the following time repeatedly sporadic Red Shirt protests happened all over the country. Apart from the Pattaya incident and the days of burning streets in Bangkok in April 2009 fortunately only small violent clashes between Sua Daeng (Red Shirts) and Pantamit (Yellow Shirts) happened during these years.
Asiancorrespondent: Thai-Constitution Court chief admits decision to dissolve the pro-Thaksin PPP was political

At Suvarnabhumi Airport PAD-guards misused this fire truck as a water cannon to defend the barricade.

Tens-of-thousends of Red Shirts joined the protest rally at the Rajamangala Stadion on 1.November 2008.

In August 2009 more than 30.000 Red Shirts gathered at Sanam Luang in front of the Royal Palace handing in the petition (asking the King to pardon Thaksin)  to the envoy of the Royal Household. The Red Shirt leadership claimed they collected around 3.5 million signatures.

Red Shirts delivering the petition to the palace.


For deeper insight and more information about these topics I recommend Nick Nostitz' book:

Red vs. Yellow
Volume 1: Thailand's crisis of identity

Published by:
White Lotus Co.,Ltd., Bangkok
ISBN 978-974-480-150-0

Wikepedia: UDD
Wikepedia: Somchai Wongsawat
Wikipedia: Samak Sundaravej



In March 2010 the UDD leadership recognised that sporadic mass gatherings seem not to impress the Abhisit government enough to step down and call for early elections. Therefor they decided to put up a permanent protest site at Phan Fa bridge, which is located  between the Royal Palace and the Ananta Samakorn Throne Hall, near the Monument of Democracy and not far away from Royal Thai Army Headquarters.



Press conference at the FCCT

On the 3.March 2010 Darunee Kritboonyalai, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn and Jaran Ditthapichai explained the new protest strategy at the FCCT in Bangkok.



Singing the Royal Anthem at Lumpini Park

On March 12th a group of 100 to 150 red shirts gathered for a commemoration ceremony and singing the royal anthem in front of the King Mongkhutklao Monument at Lumpini park. Lead among others by Jaran Ditthapichai and Darunee Kritboonyalai they wanted to proof that the Red Shirts are not an anti-monarchy-movement.

On that day Jaran Ditthapichai explained to my wife that he was nearly 80% sure that the government will impose a state of emergency soon. As a matter of fact, on 7. April 2010 the government declared the state of emergency, three days before the attempted crackdown.

Red Shirts singing the Royal Anthem in front of the King Rama VI Monument.



The Red Shirt camp at Phan Fa bridge

When these two soldiers recognised that I saw them dancing to the protest songs of the red shirts, they felt very uncomfortable.

The UDD-leaders called on their supporters from all over the country to join the permanent protest camp at Phan Fa bridge. They also announced the 1.000.000 people's march for 14.March 2010. All day long the day people and convois from the provinces like this Tuk Tuk caravan arrived in Bangkok.



The one million people's march

The Red Shirts missed their goal to reach the number of 1.000.000 supporters.
While the Abhisit-government claimed that exactly (hell, who counted them!) 46.377 protesters joined the rally (, the Red Shirt leadership named the number of 300.000 supporters. The real number of protesters was probably somewhere between 100.000 and 150.000.

Natthawut Saikua, one of the Red Shirt core leaders, adresses the masses in front of the stage at Phan Fa bridge.

Oooops, normally the entering of these buildings near the Rama III Monument is strictly forbidden for ordinary people. Only on special events VIP's and invited guests are allowed to enter.



Protest at the Gates of the 11.Infantry Regiment

Afraid of the protesters the Abhisit government established the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) headquarters inside the barracks of the Royal Thai Army 11th Infantry regiment. Therefor several thousands of Red Shirts staged  a peaceful rally in front of the main gates at Phahon Yothin Road to voice their demand for fresh elections. After a short press conference Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva fled from the compound by helicopter just a few minutes before the Red Shirts arrived.

Before the motorcade arrived, these two protesters faced alone the hundreds of heavily armed anti-riot units on the other side of the barricade. Sometimes two brave people can be more impressive than 500 heavily armed soldiers.

The de-escalation unit of the army did a very good job that day. Even many Red Shirts were surprised and impressed.

Thousands of bystanders and supporters cheered the Red Shirts on their way from Phan Fa bridge to the army barracks.


16. March

The Blood-Sacrifice

Natthawut Saikua on April the 16th: “This is a vow of non-violence by the red shirts. We do not want bloodshed, loss of life, or violent clashes with anyone. If our country has no democracy, every single drop of bloodshed will be the blood of serfs who have no influence, like the red shirts today."

This was definitively the most controversial campaign of the Red Shirts ever! Most of the observers and many people shook their heads in disbelief when they heard about the plans. This nonsense lost the Red Shirts a lot of sympathies.

The UDD-leadership asked their supporters to donate 1 million cubic centimeters of their blood. In the afternoon the blood should be spilled in front of the Government House in a symbolic act to emphasize their demands for the government to step down and to call for early elections.

I think we could skip the discussion about adhering the hygiene standards that day!

The UDD leaders donated their blood  onstage in public, surrounded and well-covered by the media.

Many policemen didn't trust their eyes when the bottles and canisters with the donated blood arrived at the barricades. Vague rumours indicated that the Red Shirts didn't collect enough human blood that day and that they added  pork blood to reach the goal of 1 million cubic centimetres of blood.

The brahmane Sakrapee Promchart performed the rite in front of gate #2 of the Government House.

After returning home I cleaned my shoes with soap and alcohol. And I changed the shoelaces!

Darunee got nauseous after seeing and smelling all the spilled blood and had to leave before brahmane Sakrapee Promchart finished the rite.


20. March

The giant motorcade

At that time, before the Red Shirts moved their camp from Phan Fa bridge to the Rachaprasong intersection, they still got a lot of support from the people working and living in the Silom area.


25. March

Hair sacrifice

This time hundreds of UDD supporters got their heads being shaved as a protest against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. The mass shaving at Phan Fa bridge was led by one of the UDD-core leaders, "Rambo Isaan", and started at 2.00 pm that day. 
But honestly, the government was not really impressed by this campaign.



Watermelon soldiers

"They are like watermelons, on the outside they are green, but on the inside they are red." (unknown Red Shirt protester)


This day started with a smaller parade around the government district.

No comment on this picture!

Later that day the soldiers stationed at the Government House were ordered back to their barracks. At this time the protesters cheered and applauded the withdrawing soldiers. And many soldiers smiled and beckoned. The situation changed dramatically on April 10th, the day of the attempted crackdown.

End of part 1

A personal diary - Part 2: 1st - 17th March - Protest at Phan Fa bridge
A personal diary - Part 3: 18th - 20th April - the barricade and the arrival of the security forces


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