Over the last few months the “red shirts” have occupied the moral high ground in Thai politics. There have been some unfortunate incidents but, by and large, the red-clad opposition movement has managed to stage large, well-organised and and generally well-disciplined rallies to maintain pressure on the Abhisit government. There has been a clear contrast between the protest strategies of the red-shirts and the provocative escalation practiced by the yellow-shirts in the latter months of 2008.

But, over the past few days, the distinction in tactics between red and yellow has become much less clear. Elements within the red shirts have now embraced violent confrontation. They have lost the moral high ground and given a humiliated Abhisit the pretext for launching a bloody crackdown.

Who knows how events will unfold. The leaders of the red-shirts may end up regretting the confrontational and bloody turn their campaign has taken. But, as Abhisit knows better than anyone else, the royal yellow lesson from 2008 is that thuggery, violence and provocation can reap rich political rewards.