Editorial Notes

Poor political timing for 'wear red' push in Thailand: The Nation

Thai "red shirt" protesters fortifying a barrier on April 20, 2010.
Thai "red shirt" protesters fortifying a barrier on April 20, 2010. PHOTO: ST FILE

In its editorial on Nov 9, 2015, The Nation says that the low turn-out should worry the Shinawatras

It's easy to see why a "Wear red" campaign scheduled on Nov 1 failed to ruffle any feathers.

Some pointed fingers at the military's stern warning, while the others cited the confusion caused by contradictory signals from red-shirted leaders themselves.

And there are people in the anti-military movement who either think the time "isn't yet ripe" to instigate an uprising or have doubts themselves about the controversial rice-pledging scheme of the overthrown Yingluck government.

All the analyses are correct, one more than another, perhaps.

The military remains in firm control and several key leaders of the red-shirt movement have been reined in.

That partly explained why some red-shirt leaders either sounded sceptical about the "rendezvous" or were totally silent about it.

But one theory that should not be overlooked is that the campaign fizzled out because it seemed to be attached too much to the rice scheme and the Shinawatras.

Although former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said publicly she did not want her supporters to wear red on that day, her big brother was among those not complying. Thaksin made sure everybody knew what colour he chose to wear on Nov 1.

Trapped by his own pro-peace rhetoric, he tried to convince his supporters and the rest of the world that he did it for the sake of Thai democracy.

How many people believed him or whether his association with the campaign contributed to the low turn-out depends on each person's political point of view.

Thaksin recently instructed his supporters to "play dead".

That may have had added to the confusing signals ahead of Nov 1.

That also might explain his apparently awkward message to the Thai people and supporters a week ago.

Thaksin said he wore red because it was Sunday and he also wanted to express support for justice seekers and democracy lovers in his homeland.

Thailand's red-shirt movement shouldn't be controlled by guns or tough laws, he added, because fairness and mercy would easily win their hearts.

Thaksin's problem is that while he often seemed to say the right thing, when democracy was concerned, it was always doubtful that he was the right man to say such things.

Accusations that he himself is a member of the "elite" who was clever at exploiting democracy always hounded him, but after the latest coup, they were given more weight by a hardcore leftist.

In his most stinging attack against the Shinawatras, Mr Somsak Jeamteerasakul in the middle of this year asserted that the clan was no different from those who the family's members claim are hell-bent on destroying them.

Mr Somsak did not highlight the rice scheme, but his criticism of the Shinawatras lent credence to the impression that their "pro-democracy" initiatives usually came when their vested interests were at stake.

The "Wear red" campaign was partly dubbed a move to give moral support to Yingluck Shinawatra, who faces legal action for alleged failure to act against fraud in the rice scheme.

The trial is some way from conclusion, but the military came under heavy criticism recently for applying a little-known law in a bid to force her to pay damages.

The bottom line, though, is that the controversial programme deserves to be scrutinised.

Many among both pro- and anti-military people want the trial to be a stage to prove Yingluck's guilt or innocence.

It's possible that the "Wear red" campaign flies in the face of such a wish and that could be a reason why what was supposed to be a major red tide on November did not quite work out.

It was an obvious setback for some, most likely a famous man in political exile, but not quite for others.


The Nation is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote coverage of Asian affairs.