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Protests in Thailand

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Photo by Barbara Walton/EPA

For the past week protests have been intensifying and picking up steam in Thailand where the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, also known as the “Red Shirts,” a political movement that has its grass-roots support and base within the poor (and especially rural) population, has been calling for the dissolving of parliament, for the prime minister to step down, and to call for new elections.

The Red Shirts burst onto the scene (for international news services, anyway) when the royalist military and the business elite conspirted to overthrow then billionaire prime minister Thaksin who held liberal-leftist policies that were popular amongst certain segments of the working class and the rural population.  Thaksin eventually had to flee the country and was replaced by royalist politicians at the behest of the army.

The protests came to a head last weekend when the royalist army clashed with protesters causing the death of over 20 people.  The bloodshed has actually caused the heads of the army to rethink their position by stating that the only solution to the crisis might be to dissolve parliament and call for elections.

Andrew Brown and Kevin Hewison stated that after Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won a landslide victory in 2005, based in part of its efforts to organize the rural population of poor farmers and peasants:

the TRT’s policies have stressed the need to address inequality and poverty.  For domestic capitalists, the TRT has emphasized reforms that provided opportunities for companies to restructure and enhance  competitiveness and profitability.  Domestic businesses have supported the TRT because the economic crisis threatened not only to change the ways in which business operated, but also threatened the economic power of the capitalist class.  The TRT thus became the primary vehicle for domestic capital to oppose the economic reforms brokered by the Chuan Leekpai-led government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While the Thaksin was no radical his party’s policies were, to a certain extent, benefiting the country it its fight against international capital and IMF policies.  So, while we heard back in 2006 that protesters took to the streets to oppose Thaksin’s “grip on power” these little tid-bits of information can help us re-orientate our perspective a little in seeing why many of the international business class, the business elite that benefited from IMF policies, the royalists, and the capitalist class opposed Thaksin’s coalition government.

We all should be looking at the recent protests in Thailand with general interests and should also be on the lookout for overly generalizing this complex situation as either completely worker vs. capitalist or pro-poor capitalist Thaksin vs. reactionary capitalist royalists.

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