When it comes to political unrest, Thailand has more history than most. Eighteen military coups in the last eighty years, but still, the political turmoil continues. Thailand is a deeply divided nation, perhaps it’s always been that way, but today those divisions are deeper than they’ve ever been and it’s doubtful that they can be easily healed.
The Western media seem to portray the current political crisis as a fight between the rural poor of the North and the rich elite in Bangkok and the South. Historically speaking it’s much more complicated than that, but currently, it’s also much simpler.
What we have today is a battle between two distinct gangs of rich and privileged Thai’s, waging war against each other using the poor citizens as their disposable infantrymen. The winner of this war will get to control the political trough, and in recent years, that trough has been absolutely overflowing with riches. Thailand has always suffered from corruption, but now, corruption has spiralled to an unbelievable, and thus, the incentives to hold power have dramatically increased.
For many Westerner’s, the most memorable vision of this current conflict will be the harrowing video of the policeman kicking away an exploding grenade during the battle at Phan Fah Bridge in central Bangkok. It was a truly awful sight, but sadly, that was just one of the many deadly incidents.
Attacks by as yet unidentified assailants on anti-government rallies have so far cost 21 lives, including 5 innocent children aged 4,5,6,6 and 12 while 750 others have been seriously injured.
The number of deaths and injuries is saddening, but perhaps even more saddening is the reaction to those deaths from the pro-government movement.
On the evening of Saturday the 22nd of February, supporters of the anti-government movement (PDRC) gathered in the small town of Khao Saming in Trat Province, 200km to the south of Bangkok. Two young girls aged 5 and 6, were helping to wash dishes at their grandmother’s food stall close to the rally site. Two pick-up trucks carrying unidentified assailants drove into the area and showered the market with automatic gunfire and fragmentation grenades before speeding off into the night. 5 people were killed, including the two young girls, and thirty five others were seriously injured.
One day after the killings at the market in Trat, the pro-government movement UDD (Red Shirts) were holding their own rally in support of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Pheu Thai Government. This YouTube video shows a leader of the UDD talking to the 4,000 strong audience from the stage. 51 seconds into the video, you see the audience reacting with jubilation to his enthusiastic announcement. The audience included at least two serving Government Ministers. At 1:06, the organiser of the rally steps in and asks the speaker to stop. If you have any interest in the future of humanity, then please take a minute to watch this video before you read what was said, and who was speaking.
The speaker on stage is Dab Daeng, a serving officer with the Royal Thai Police Force, and a high ranking official of the UDD pro-government movement (Red Shirts).
This is what he said:
"I have good news to tell my Red Shirt brothers and sisters. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee members at the protest stage in Khao Saming in Trat province were deservedly given a reception by the locals. Five of the PDRC supporters were killed and over 30 have been injured"
This speech came from a serving Officer of the Royal Thai Police Force, an Officer from the force responsible for investigating the crime, and was jubilantly applauded by 4,000 citizens and two Government Ministers. To put this into a British context, it would be like the Foreign Minister and Home Secretary cheering a speech by a Chief Constable declaring that the Dunblane massacre was a glorious victory for England.
This video went viral across Thailand and the reaction to it, and even the reaction to the deaths of these two young children, and the three other children who were killed in another fragmentation grenade attack the very next day, was divided along party lines.
The hatred that has been created by the leaders of the two political factions is now far stronger than their followers underlying love for Thailand itself.