When the military did step in, following Sunday’s emergency decree, even the incipient crackdown appeared to bolster the red shirts. The reaction of the authorities, in particular, clearly evidenced the “double standard” their leaders had lamented all along. Reactionaries can shoot their opponents, run police officers over with their trucks, riot in front of Parliament, trash Government House, and occupy the airports for a week with the impunity characteristically accorded in Thailand to the champions of the establishment. But if you are against the bureaucrats, the aristocrats, and the generals who have run the country for the last 75 years, shattering the glass doors of a five-star hotel is all it takes to be branded an “enemy of the state.”
The luck of the red shirts turned in a mere matter of hours. By Monday afternoon, the movement’s once-buoyant leadership had effectively lost control of the situation. Supporters scattered all over Bangkok resorted to desperate measures to halt the army’s methodical advance through the capital. The height of irresponsibility was reached as red shirts commandeered LPG tankers and drove them into highly populated areas such as the Din Daeng triangle and Soi Rangnam, as if to threaten the annihilation of entire neighborhoods should the army dare to move in. To protect themselves, the red shirts had proven willing to endanger the lives of regular people — those whose interests and aspirations they ostensibly advance, those whose support is indispensable to the success of their movement. In the process, the red shirts squandered any good will the local population might have harbored towards them — reducing, for the time being, the prospects of a popular uprising to mere fancy.
As they increasingly lost control of their own supporters, the red shirts quickly succumbed to the mediatic onslaught that accompanied the regime’s crackdown. Given the military’s shameful history of repression and mass murder, it is hard to think anyone would believe a word that comes out of a Thai general’s mouth. But the government successfully disseminated its self-serving narrative nonetheless, portraying its actions as deliberate, orderly, and restrained in the face of an unwieldy terrorist mob. The servile local media eagerly obliged; the facile foreign press swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. Of course, the official version of the events was the usual pack of lies and half-truths. Photographs and video already contradict the preposterous notion that soldiers merely fired warning shots in the air, or that the weapons seen firing directly into the crowds had only been loaded with blank rounds. In the next days and weeks, we will find out just how many red shirts those blank rounds injured or killed.
Good stuff, as always.
You got to wonder where the military will bury the bodies or what they will do with those arrested, not the leaders mind, but the average Somchais who were being hauled off.
If Thai history is anything to go by, their futures have about as much hope as a terrorist being secretly sent off to a CIA jail and questioned. Actually, they probably have less rights than a terrorist. The Red Cross won't be going to interview them. We know who controls the Red Cross in Thailand.