Personal Observations on the Red Shirt Protests in Thiland During May 2010: Episode V, May 23, 2010, a postscript about Thai women.
Of those of you who spend the time reading these posts, some of you have expressed little interest in the machinations of Thai politics other than concern for my health (for which I thank you). Others have asked some searching questions about the situation.
Since things have quieted down here quite a bit on the military front, this will probably be my last post on the subject and I will happily get back to describing my ongoing struggles with short pants and Thai immigration.
As you know from my prior post, the non-combatant Red Shirts surrendered to the military sweep, its leaders jailed (perhaps to be soon disappeared) and the others sent back home to the provinces to make out best as they can. The Red Shirt fighters mostly melted into the background as the final assault was launched, inflicting what damage on the military and property that they could as they retreated. I expect, as is often the case in these situations, they will become, first guerilla groups, then terrorists and finally undistinguishable from any of the criminal bands that have always haunted Thai Society.
The hard-line military is firmly in control of the government, although from a less public position then in the past. Rolling curfew’s and roadblocks are the order of the day, while government spokespersons call for order. Calls for national reconciliation come not from the government so much as from the press, opposition parties not associated with the Red Shirts or from the Red Shirts themselves. To put this in perspective, one of the pro-government articles in the Bangkok Post, the leading english language daily in Thailand, explained that although Thaksin, the deposed prime minister, had done much of lasting good for those who had previously had been ignored by the Thai political establishment, the gradual takeover of the all the elements of Thai society for the benefit of his own financial interests and that of his family, friends and political supporters reached an unacceptable extent when it threatened the independence of the military and the monarchy itself.
Recently several people have told me that they heard rumors that the government had retained Cambodian mercenaries to lead the assault on the Red Shirts because the Thai army troops resisted killing fellow Thais. I suspect this to be Red Shirt propaganda in an effort to appeal to the ordinary Thai solider while throwing suspicion on the government and the general staff. What I believe actually happened is that the elite troops who spearheaded the attack who are stationed in the far eastern portion of Thailand adjacent to Cambodia, contain a number of Cambodian speakers and the rumor began when some were overheard speaking in their native tongue.
Although many are calling the rout of the Red Shirts a defeat for Thaksin, he still retains influence and some control over the opposition to the military and the government. He will remain a rallying point for unhappiness with the current political ascendency in the country.
[A bit of history, the original Thaksin was a Thai general who rallied the troops after their defeat by the Burmese and the destruction of the Thai capital of Ayutthaya and the unprepared and inept monarchy. He eventually defeated the Burmese, drove them back out of Siam and established a new capital in Thonburi, a suburb of modern Bangkok. Over time, he became gradually more and more arrogant, paranoid and insane until he was usurped by one of his generals who became the first king of the current monarchial dynasty.
It should be noted that during the period of the great conflicts between the Thais and the Burmese, it was often the women and not the men whose martial exploits saved the country. There are statues honoring these women throughout Thailand. In Korat a large city in the east of Thailand by the main gate to the old walled city a statue of en elderly woman stares menacingly out from the ramparts. It honors a woman, the wife of the lord of Korat whose husband was off fighting the wrong enemy when the city was attacked. She assumed command of the defenders of the city and defeated the Burmese and their allies in several attempts to conquer the city. After the Burmese were dispatched her husband and his army returned.
In the center of the Island of Phuket stands a statue stands honoring two sisters who after the Burmese had invaded the island and driven off the male defenders, rallied the women, children and elderly and drove the Burmese back into the sea.
Even the dynasty that was destroyed by the Burmese along with its capitol city, had its warrior queen. She led the royal troops in several battles against the invading Burmese defeating them every time until at last she was overrun in the final battle. She may have even had achieved victory there had she not died in a futile attempt to singlehandedly save her monkish and definitely unwarlike husband from a Burmese assault. And just so you will not mistakenly believe that I have been in touch with my feminine side, I leave you with this little misogynist note: remember, even in the land of smiles, a Thai woman can be a real bitch if you try to mess with her property… or if you are Burmese…or….]