I have been keeping an eye on developments in Thailand for some time now, especially since the Red Shirts began their occupation of central Bangkok. I have several close friends in Bangkok and I am also familiar with the city, and so have been been watching todays events closely. Needless to say my sympathies lie with the Red Shirts.
While the Red Shirts originated in their defence of Thaksin, they have since developed into first a pro-democracy movement opposed to the coup d’etat and its subsequent puppet regime of the Yellow Shirts, and have now developed into an organic movement of peasants and the urban working class. In addition to their mass movement status they are also supported by many of the intellectual class and sections of the military who are opposed either to the military’s suspension of democracy or the brutality with which the state has sought to repress the Red Shirts.
The illegitimate government of Abhisit Vejjajiva looks like it has either lost control or is close to doing so, with the hardline wing of the military increasingly seeming to be calling the shots. Abhisit’s government is mostly supported by Bangkok’s urban elite and large sections of the professional class, whereas the Red Shirts have the support of the rural population and the urban working classes.
Importantly it seems that the military miscalculated the level of support for the Red Shirts and have found themselves fighting on two fronts, with Red Shirts in front and lay people behind them who are spontaneously turning on the soldiers. Additionally, there are reports that whole squadrons of soldiers are in mutiny and joining the Red Shirts, adding further complications for the military. The Red Shirts are well organised and have called for assistance from their rural base, to which the military has responded by declaring martial law throughout fifteen provinces, although it is not clear if they are able to enforce this martial law at the moment.
It is not clear how this confrontation will play out at the moment. The military is better equipped than the Red Shirts, but are facing growing numbers of fellow Thai hostile to the brutality of the repression. If reports of soldiers defecting to the Red Shirts are true, then Thailand is in a de facto state of civil war.
I will write more on this as the picture becomes clearer.