THAILAND:Red Shirts Reappear Ahead of Poll
BANGKOK, May 21, 2011 (IPS) - Thailand faces a new phenomenon on the road leading to the Jul. 3 polls: an informal union between a strong opposition political party and a formidable street protest movement that may reshape this year’s political campaign.
"This is a first in Thai history," said Pitch Pongsawat, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. "We have not seen such a fusion of a street protest movement and mainstream politics during an election campaign.
"They have grown larger and stronger and more determined," Pitch told IPS, describing the anti- government ‘Red Shirt’ protesters who have been challenging this South-east Asian kingdom’s conservative political establishment since they made their presence felt in 2008. "These people will never give up their fight for truth and justice."
Signs of this new alliance were visible on May 19. The day began with 26 political parties registering their candidates for the poll, yet ended in the evening on a different note: the return to the streets of the Red Shirts, who enjoy wide support among the country’s urban and rural working class.
It was more than a coincidence that thousands of protesters, wearing their signature red shirts, held a rally at a junction in the heart of an upscale shopping area in Bangkok that night.
May 19 marked the first year anniversary of a bloody showdown, when Thai troops moved in to reclaim the streets at the Ratchaprasong intersection that the Red Shirts had taken over in mid-April 2010. This ritzy neighbourhood, boasting five-star hotels and shopping malls with designer clothing shops, had been converted into a Red Shirt protest site for weeks. MORE