Working Class militancy in Thailand escalates: Government continues violent suppression of protesters16 May 2010
Posted by AFed
Protests in Thailand continue to grow as the Thai state’s reaction has became increasingly heavy handed; using violence, murder and intimidation as a tactic in an attempt to push the opposition movement off the streets. The protests are the result of working class opposition to the military coup which ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and put Abhisit Vejjajiva in his place in 2006. However, we can’t look at the troubles from merely a political basis, as it has social and economic causes too; the ‘yellow shirt’ supporters, in other words, pro-monarchy and largely middle class supporters of the 2006 coup, oppose what they see as an anti-monarchical and working class movement, the ‘red shirts’, many of whom are supporters of Thaksin, benefited from the introduction of universal healthcare under Thaksin, increasing access to healthcare from 76% to 96%, the subsidising of medication used by HIV patients bringing them to a lower and more affordable price, as well as improved access to university education for people from lower income backgrounds.
Barricades have been set up in Bangkok guarding the ‘red shirt’ encampment, weapons have been seized from the police and army and even tanks and military vehicles have been captured. In Khon Kaen, northeast Thailand, efforts were made to stop troop trains travelling to Bangkok as well as ‘red shirts’ managing to convince soldiers to withdraw from the frontlines. This is a result of the Abhisit government’s increasing heavy handed approach to the opposition movement; the army and police have opened fire on protesters, recently it was reported that over 50 people had been killed and hundreds injured in May, although the Thai and Western media make out the numbers are lower, snipers are also being used to pick out individual targets within the ‘red shirt’ encampment, the government claiming that they are only opening fire on ‘rioters’, apparently amongst the ranks of the ‘rioters’ included a paramedic called out to treat wounded protesters, foreign journalists and a 10 year old child. In response, ‘human rights’ groups have called for both sides to stop the violence, spreading the myth that the violence is being equally perpetuated by both sides when in fact, the ‘red shirt’ protesters have used minimal violence, usually only in defence, although this is no surprise as groups like Amnesty International had already long come out in support of the coup and monarchy. The Abhisit government refuses to negotiate with the opposition movement.