Over the past couple of years New Mandala has been proud to feature regular photo-essays by Bangkok-based journalist Nick Nostitz. Nick’s exposure of the street-level dynamics of Thai protests — Red, Yellow and Blue — has won him well-deserved acclaim. His unique reports remain among our most popular content. They have been read by tens of thousands of people on New Mandala alone and have been translated, and published, in many other places. Based on my reading of the links and the numbers, I would be confident in betting that many hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even a million, have seen some part of his online output.
Nick is the first to admit that his reports are only one angle on the presentation of Thai political positions.
Over at the UDD Today website, there are thousands of pictures from Red Shirt rallies, and from Thaksin’s recent years in exile. Most are taken from angles on political events that few, if any, of us have good access to. They provide insights about the types of events and people that matter to the Red side of the political chasm. There is also a list of over 4,000 “Red Members” with accompanying profiles and graphics, and there are hundreds of videos (mostly Thaksin-centric). It all comes together to give a sense of the way the Red Shirt movement is presenting itself these days. And it is all contributing to an increasingly sophisticated online battlefield for Thailand’s political warriors. As I type, @uddtoday is holding its own (among, I might add, many other Thai activist/commentator voices) in the Asia Semi-final of the Mr Twitter competition.
These components of the Red-Shirt self-portrait are worth highlighting because, as the third anniversary of the 2006 coup looms, New Mandala readers who follow Thai political matters will be keeping one eye on the obvious faultlines. Red-shirt leaders have, not surprisingly, decided that Saturday 19 September will be a good day for a mass rally. Of course, the September/October window is, we are often told, one of Thailand’s traditional times for political strife.
Chatter about what will happen next — mostly informal and speculative at this stage — is well and truly underway. It reminds me, in some key senses, of a previous period of uncertainty when many of us were grasping around for a clear analysis of what was going on. That period of uncertainty ended on 19 September 2006. When will this one end?