Red shirt protest

The initally peaceful protests in Bangkok's main avenue.

Riots have crippled the Thai capital of Bangkok for over a month. The protestors - known as "Red Shirts" - have listed amongst their demands that the United Nations step in to help broker a deal between them and the Thai government. Perhaps predictably, the Thai government are reluctant to allow the UN to join in with the talks; they wish to solve the matter internally.

The question here is larger than the immediate matters influencing Bangkok. The right of states to protect their sovereignty is at risk if the UN force themselves upon the situation.

The Red ShirtsEdit

The battle between the poorer citizens of Thailand, known as the red shirts, and the richer elite has been going on for at least five years. These protestors claim that there is a corrupt coalition of the rich and influential who have succeeded in manipulating Thailand’s political landscape. The first case of this was the coup that overthrew Premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006. The Premier was exiled from Thailand, but continues to be used as a figurehead for the red shirts. The red shirts claim that soon after this, in 2008, the Military were used to influence a vote in which a political party that Shinawatra backed was beaten. Unrest in the first few weeks of April grew to a point at which the red shirts felt they had no option other than to stage an active protest against the current government. When this proved unsuccessful, they barricaded themselves in a few square miles of the city’s centre, using old furniture and tyres to form make-shift walls and bar entry. Currently an estimated 5000 red shirts are taking part in the main barricaded area and several other satellites around the city. King Bhumibol Adulaydej has been in hospital for many months so is unable to take an active role in supporting or condemning the actions of the red shirts.

Thai Government's StanceEdit

Red shirt barricades

The area held by the red shirt protestors.

The Government continue to state equivocally (and correctly) that the action of the protesters is entirely illegal. Talks were held between the red shirts and the Government took place and it was the Redshirts who walked away. Firstly the Government responded well to the protests, making further offers to the red shirts in order to keep the peace. The current Premier has offered to move the next election a year ahead of schedule (to this coming November), although the feeling of his administration is that anything less than a win for the protestor’s chosen party would be seen as further signs of corruption. In response to the barricades, the military have taken what they perceive to be the right move. They have set up road blocks, and sand-bag emplacements all around the barricaded area. If given the word to push forward into the dangerous zone, a blood bath will surely ensue. The Government’s inability to react to the crisis quickly enough has led to problems. They were not able to blockade all entrances to the red shirts’ barricades for several days, which means that the illegal protesters were able to come and go freely, and restock their dwindling supplies.

The ProblemEdit

Regardless of who is theoretically right or wrong, the protests have caused a huge amount of unrest locally and internationally. Thailand boasts a very large and powerful economy, which has obvious roots in its capital, Bangkok. Business in the city, which is also home to around nine million people, has been practically suspended whilst the crisis continues. This has obvious repercussions throughout the country and the rest of the Far-East. The violence will have an impact on the tourism for years to come, as many would-be travellers are sure to avoid the area if it seen to be an exclusively violent or intolerant nation. Still the red shirts – who are a very vocal minority but continue to represent the interests and fears of the very large poor majority – continue to have their demands ignored. With enough fanning of the flames, and not enough appeasement from the Thai Government or the United Nations, civil war is a very real possibility.

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