Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red's fatal mistakes


I stumbled across the above video, which reminded me of my watching the final moments of the Redshirts protest on 19th May (with one eye on the PTV online broadcast, and the other eye on Twitter updates).

Unbelievably, we still see claims that the redshirt leaders were cowards and hid behind their followers (see comment #20 here for example).
Watch the video above, and also take note who suffered the vast majority of deaths and injury - surely that tells any rational observer which side was at most risk during the protest period, and also remember that the red leaders went on stage every day, even after Seh Daeng was so blatantly gunned down in the vicinity of foreign journalsist interviewing him.
What's really perverse is that those ridiculous cowardice claims most often come from staunch supporters of Abhisit, the PM who
hid out at a military barracks for over a month, and from the types who were openly calling for a brutal crackdown.
(Note to students: It might be a good project for a thesis to trace some of those such comments on twitter - if anyone is so inclined, the Google 'updates' search function should be useful)

Looking back on the protest it becomes very clear that the redshirt leaders made two big mistakes:

Firstly they should have more clearly distanced themselves from the armed MIB. An overblown military with their fingers in every pie, is one of the major problems in Thailand, so while accepting help (or turning a blind eye to help) from one military faction against another might seem a good strategy for 'victory', that sort of victory would make them no better than the cabal they are trying to remove.

The second major mistake was that the leaders, and the followers,
underestimated the double standard that they so often railed against. Having watched the antics of the yellow PAD have considerable success, with no punishment (even reward in the case of Foreign Minister Kasit), the reds foolishly thought all that was required to bring down a government was to maintain a protest long enough to force the government to call an election, or for a coalition partner to jump ship under the pressure.
What's clear now is that strategy only works if you are wearing the 'right' colour, and have the 'right' people backing you.

Here's a selection of tweets I extracted from the closing moments of the protest:

terryfrd: nattawud. Please listen to me,he tells protesting crowd. Today is one more time that we have had to make a difficult decision.

RichardBarrow: Nattawud telling the red shirt protesters at Rathchaprasong that they will surrender. Crowd disagrees.

terryfrd: We will have to wait for another chance. I declare we are ending the rally at this site, but not our struggle. Nattawud announces.

georgebkk: Nattawud: our fight will proceed according to democracy; I know you don't want to hear this but we cannot hold off the situation.

Nikky_Bangkok: Nattawud: We (the leaders) are willing to sacrifice our freedom to save lives. Please listen to me one more time. Please listen to me.

terryfrd: nattawud: This has not turned out the way we expected, but we have done our best. We will exchange our freedom for you.

sutatip_b: We have to wait for another chance. I declare we are ending the rally at this site, but not our struggle Nattawud announces

terryfrd: Nattawud: we have tried our best for the sake of the country, but when we see so much death, it has to stop. (Shouts of protest)

terryfrd: We are ending our rally here so that we can continue our struggle for democracy, nattawud says. I appeal to you, (explosions)

georgebkk: Nattawud: I know you can't accept, but we have assessed the situation thoroughly (Police entering area in force with shields)

RichardBarrow: Everyone jumpy as gunshots heard - Nattawud still talking but surrounded by team now - everyone jittery

s_narut: Another gunshot, UDD guard surround Nattawud, afraid of assignation attempt.

terryfrd: Leaders on stage are very uneasy looking around.Nattawud abruptly ends his announcement.Comes back and says for crowd to go to Nat'l stadium

RichardBarrow: Nattawud making an announcement on the PA system that they are turning themselves in. Don't worry about us. It will be done by the law

RichardBarrow: Nattawud: Don't worry. We won't lose our freedom for a long time. Everyone go home safely.

(Hobby: Still underestimating the double standard, right till the end)

s_narut: Nattawud still asking protestors to go home from inside of police HQ

terryfrd: Nattawud makes annoucnement. Don't worry about us,he tells supporters. We are safe and will enter legal process.

Nikky_Bangkok: Nattawud speaking live from Natl Police HQ. Tells protesters not to worry, all UDD leaders safely in custody.

RichardBarrow: Nattawud: We chose to fight bravely. Thank you everyone.

terryfrd: Today is not our day, says nattawud. many have been killed and injured.After this is over, if you still have trust in us, ...

terryfrd: If you no longer have faith in our leadership, we will become ordinary red-shirt members, nattawud says.

terryfrd: Under SOE, the charges against us arean't all that serious, he says, so go home, nattawud tells upset supporters. Go Nat'l stadium

RichardBarrow: Nattawud: THe police will look after you. Please go to the national stadium and the police will look after you

(Hobby: but those soldiers on the Skytrain line wont)

haroldrolloos: Leaders of the red shirts - Nattawud and Jattuporn - in #Bangkok are arrested, but the reds don't give up.

terryfrd: Nattawud, says that after the senators accepted role as mediators, govt closed the door and began crackdown.

terryfrd: Arson attempts, riots, grenades, etc. may wipe Nattawud & Jatuporn surrender speeches off front pages. Not good for reds or Puea Thai. (Hobby: For once I agree with Terry:)

I don't condone any of the violence that took place during the protest, or the burning afterwards, but I can certainly understand the anger and frustration of redshirts at how one colour has been so protected and encouraged, yet the redshirts end up being killed just for asking for an election (the main purpose of which was to try to undo an illegal military coup).

btw, for anyone who thinks the coup was legal and there was no choice but to endorse it, please see this and this.

This is probably just a one-off blog post, however comments are still welcome.