For those interested in the political evolution of the redshirts, here is an interesting account from Nirmal Ghosh of the Straits Times:
BANGKOK: Thailand’s ‘red shirt’ movement has recovered from the army’s crackdown in May quicker than anticipated, and anti-monarchy sentiment in the movement has grown, two of its key figures said in interviews recently.
Up to 90 per cent of the red shirts may now be anti-monarchy, they said.
But with its core leaders in jail or scattered and in hiding, the movement remains in search of a strategy and credible alternative leaders, they acknowledged.
‘The red shirts need a new way. The old way was like the saying that you raise a pig and fatten it only to see it slaughtered,’ one of the leaders said.
The other said: ‘There are three realities now – the majority of the red shirts are anti-monarchy; they don’t believe in a peaceful struggle; and they need a new kind of leadership and organisation.’
The two leaders spoke to The Straits Times last week on condition that their names and locations are not disclosed, because they are in hiding from the Thai authorities. Both have been charged with offences dating back to 2007.
The red shirts – a loose alliance of supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, rural and urban poor, former leftist intellectuals and a segment of the middle class, and business elite aligned with Thaksin – call themselves the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
At first a reaction to the army’s 2006 coup d’etat which ousted Thaksin, the red shirts – concentrated in the country’s north-east, part of the north and pockets of Bangkok – want to reduce the influence of Thailand’s traditional royalist-military-bureaucracy elite.
Until several UDD leaders were arrested or fled the army crackdown in May, the movement was led by a committee of about 30 with a range of agendas, including the reinstatement of Thaksin, who has been living overseas since 2008 to dodge a two-year sentence for corruption.
But a narrow anti-monarchy vein has become more pronounced. It emerged around 2008 on the perception that elements in the palace sided with ‘yellow shirt’ royalists who campaigned against Thaksin and against one-man, one-vote democracy.
In public, the resentment is expressed in coded language for fear of harsh laws against criticising the institution. But at recent red-shirt rallies, more explicit anti-monarchy graffiti appeared for the first time.
Thailand’s hawkish army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, reacted just two weeks ago with his most explicit statement to date, warning that Thais face arrest if they criticise the monarchy.
During the clashes in Bangkok earlier this year which left 91 dead – mostly civilians – from battles between troops and the red shirts, Chulalongkorn University professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak wrote about a ‘growing republican fringe’ among the red shirts.
‘The vast majority of Thais still want to preserve their constitutional monarchy, but it must be reformed and refitted to meet the demands and expectations of a democratised society,’ he said.
Attempts at reconciliation have shown little progress and many red shirts believe they are just efforts at window-dressing.
Since late May, there have been several grenade blasts in and around Bangkok which the government blamed on the red shirts. Bangkok remains under a state of emergency declared in April.├п┬┐┬╜
‘So-called backroom negotiations between the two sides (Thaksin and the establishment) are over,’ one of the leaders said, adding that there was no more potential for talks. Both leaders also said the red-shirt movement had grown beyond Thaksin but still needed him as a symbol, mainly because nobody else could replace him.
‘But Thaksin may have problems consolidating… the red shirts,’ one of them said, adding that ‘renegade groups’ wanted to act on their own but were limited by ‘budgets and legitimacy’.
On the anti-monarchy factor, he said: ‘General Prayuth was not overreacting. I see anti-monarchy sentiment growing, but since it is new and challenging for Thai people, they are struggling to find a way to express it.’
However, he discounted the prospect of a ‘revolution’