Thailand eyewitness: Red Shirts defy regime

Mass Red Shirt protest, September 19, Bangkok. Photo by Klaus Crimson

Thailand Troubles said on September 19 that a motorcade of 150 vehicles made their way from Bangkok to Chiangmai for a rally of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), popularly known as the Red Shirts, that was expected to draw 10,000.

A growing crowd of Red Shirts gathered since morning around Ratchaprasong Intersection, the site of the April-May mass protest camp of Red Shirts that was bloodily repressed by the military on May 19.

Ninety-one people were killed and thousands were wounded. Hundreds of Red Shirts remain in detention. There were also protests around the world.

Thailand Troubles wrote: "When many thousands openly protest their support for a cause labelled terrorist by a government willing to use deadly force to suppress those who question its writ it is hard not to conclude that the spirit of the movement is far from broken.

"The Red Shirt movement demonstrated that this afternoon and evening when they turned Ratchaprasong, site of a two-month sit-in protest that was finally brought to an end by troops using deadly force on the May 19, 2010, into a sea of red once again, evoking the heady days of March, April and May.

"The graffiti, handwritten notices and banners were defiant, angry and confident, a mix of accusations and condemnation, demands and questions. The mood was joyful with singing and cheering, clapping and dancing. But amid the smiles, the feelings of solidarity, were not a few faces sad and serious. As ever people were polite and courteous, talking eagerly with new acquaintances."

“Klaus Crimson” – whose photographs of this historic rally of Thailand’s resurgent Red Shirt movement (popular name for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, UDD) can be seen in the slideshow above – explained to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly: "It was truly an amazing experience yesterday. I expected that in the afternoon people would start to join. However after my ‘morning walk’ around 9am it was pretty clear to me that it might grow into something big.

“Later in the morning Khun Sombat [Boonngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday group that organised the rally] was really stressed because he didn’t expect so many people to join and he was worried about people getting arrested if they blocked traffic on Ratchaprasong Intersection.

“Around noon it was quite clear that there would be more than 10,000 joining and the intersection would be blocked completely. The police finally allowed Sombat to use his own loudspeaker trucks to address and hopefully control the crowd, which he did perfecttly. The police finally allowed the crowd to flood the intersection and issued the order to the crowd to disperse by 8pm or else …

“The mood was truly jubilant and absolutely peaceful throughout the day. You could always find groups of people singing and dancing. No one down here was paid. Everyone came of their own free will without any strong leader calling them to get here. Many Reds now go with the slogan: ‘Everyone is his own leader’.

“The arguments of the elite that these are not real protests because the Red Shirts are nothing but a paid mob helping [deposed prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra is now completely proven to be wrong.

“The only thought that worries me is that now the elites will realise again that they will have no chance in any future free elections. As a result future elections might be even more of a dream now. Maybe even a coup by hardliners around the new military chief is more likely.

“We’ll see – we have to hope for the best. Only one thing is for sure, the Red Shirts will fight on!”

[Peter Boyle is national convenor of the Socialist Alliance of Australia, which supports the struggle for democracy in Thailand. Visit Links for more updates on Thailand and global protests.]

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