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Will the 1 Million Red Shirt Protesters Overthrow the Thai Government and Shut Down Bangkok?

Red shirt anti-government protestors, Bangkok, Thailand - (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)


Bangkok, March 9, 2010…..

With massive anti-government demonstrations set to take place between Friday and Sunday, March 12-14, 2010, the red shirts (anti-government forces) say they have mobilized 1 million people who will flood Bangkok over the weekend in an attempt to paralyze the city and overthrow the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. 20,000 Buddhist monks are also expected to attend.

But, is this typical red shirt ‘propoganda’ or will this demonstration go off as expected with the number of people stated? And will the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva fall?

In my opinion, not very likely.

Last April, during the Thai holiday Songkran, anti-government red shirts surged into Bangkok taking over major roads, shutting down government buildings and shopping centers, and basically closing the city down. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva watched it calmly for a while, in the true Thai way. Then, he’d had enough. The military and police were called in, the red shirts were rounded up and either arrested or pushed back out of main city areas. Only two people were killed and both of these were killed by regular citizens who were just sick to death of the red shirts and their actions.

As far as the 1 million red shirts showing up in Bangkok, most estimates seem to say more likely around 300,000. Still a huge number, of course, it’s not the number the red shirts want or need, to prove the majority of Thais are supporting them.

In reality, the majority of Thais don’t support the red shirts. But neither do they support the yellow shirts (pro-government forces) and the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva. Most Thais simply want somebody, anybody, to lead the government and the country towards true democracy with less involvment by the military and less corruption. Simple really.

As far as the government of Abhisit Vejajjiva falling. Like I said, not likely. The Oxford University-educated Vejajjiva, although western in much of how he thinks, is usually Thai in how he acts. Calm on the surface and likely to sit back and assess the situation carefully before acting, if he acts similar to how he did during last year’s red-shirt riots, Abhisit will be the winner and not the red shirts.

As for this writer, I do understand the red shirts frustrations. They are the poor of Thailand and, under the previous government of Thaksin Shinawatra, were given money and benefits they don’t get under Abhisit. However, most of this money was coming from corrupt sources and was no more than an attempt by Thaksin Shinawatra to ‘buy the vote’.

What Thailand really needs isn’t a corrupt Prime Minister like Thaksin, who buys people off just to get what he wants. Instead, it needs a principled and just Prime Minister who realizes the importance of creating programs to benefit the poor, without simply handing out ‘free money’ to get votes.

Stay tuned for regularly updated information on the upcoming red-shirt demonstrations in Bangkok this weekend. These protests are quite likely to turn violent so, any tourist in the city is urged to stay away from red-shirt occupied areas. Grab a beer in a local bar and watch Thai TV. At least you’re going to be in the atmosphere of a red-shirt occupied Bangkok if not right right in the middle of it.