March 16th, 2010 10:41 EST
Thai Red Shirt Protestors Prepare to "Shed Blood"
I suppose true journalism should be unbiased and balanced, detached from personal opinion. I guess that means I`m not a "true journalist".
I am a Thaksin supporter, one of the few if not only American "red shirts" in Tokyo (although wearing a red shirt is probably not interpreted as a protest in Tokyo, just gaudy bad taste). You might wonder why an American supports Thaksin and what concern it is of mine. Or you might not. I`m going to tell you, either way.
Actually, until a few years ago, I knew nothing about Thai politics (now I have advanced to the "next to nothing" stage). A good friend of mine, a Thai massager from the "upcountry" (as she called it) near the Golden Triangle, brought me up to speed.
She said that Thailand is largely divided into the urban "elite" who loathed former Prime Minister Thaksin`s populism and the rural "poor" who cherish him. He was, she claimed, the first Prime Minister to ever visit her village or to care about what happened outside of Bangkok, Phuket, and a few other key cities. She especially praised his "OTOP" policy. OTOP means "One Town, One Product" and the policy was to give each town a certain product to produce and give government support and subsidies to that production to decrease rural unemployment.
Thanks to OTOP, her village was able to pave a road, introduce electricity, and running water. She no longer had to walk over an hour to the library to find a builidng with electricity. Education was also improved as well, she claimed. She credited this all to Thaksin.
When asked about corruption claims, she was quick in her response. She said she wasn`t sure if he was really corrupt or if this was trumped up but either way, she`d take a corrupt leader over an arrogant elitist who despised the rural poor any day.
Her fervency astounded me since I can hardly think of any US politician (or Japanese one) that I would be willing to "shed blood" over.
The "shed blood" tactic is for many of the 100,000 red shirt protestors gathered in Bangkok to "donate" their blood and pour it on the streets of Bangkok to protest the refusal of the Absihit government to step down, dissolve parliament and call new elections. Will it work? I don`t know but it takes non-violent protest to a whole new level. I bet Gandhi wishes he`d thought of that one.
She ended her dissertation on Thai politics by saying that most Thai really wanted "orange shirts" (red mixed with yellow). The divide between red shirted rurals and yellow shirted urbanites was ultimately false and perpetuated by a few members of the ruling elite in conjunction with certain elements of the military. And orange is the color of Buddhism (OK, saffron). I know this is the season to wear something green but I`m going to throw in a splash of red, too. And maybe a hint of orange.