Who Are the Red Shirts?

bangkok051910.jpgGiven the sudden and bloody end to the two-month-long protest rally in downtown Bangkok, I believe it is essential the world understands who the Red Shirts are, and what they have been fighting for.

There continues to be a concerted effort from the Thai government and its supporters to delegitimise the movement, paint them as “terrorists,” or otherwise seek to deprive the Red Shirts of their legitimate grievances over repeated violations of their democratic rights and reversals of their votes. I can state unequivocally that this movement represents a schism within Thai society that has not been created or developed by any one individual, but represents a fundamental dispute over an exclusionary political system.

As a lawyer representing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, I had the opportunity to visit the encampment just days before the final violence began to investigate recent violations of human rights by the government. The people I met were a polyglot group, young and old, from impoverished farmers to academic intelligentsia, all committed to the peaceful restoration of constitutional democracy. The vast majority of Red Shirts is vocally opposed to the few extremists on the fringe who had resorted to arms, thus distorting the public image and spirit of their movement.

Continue reading this opinion article in The Australian.

Photo credit:  BANGKOK, THAILAND – MAY19: Thai soldiers start the early morning attackon the red shirt camp May 19, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. At least 5people are reported to have died as government forces sought to overrunbarricades raised in and around the city centre by anti-governmentprotestors. Red-shirt leaders have now surrendered, ending theirblockade in the aftermath of a sixth day of violence, leaving the armyin control and a night time curfew to be imposed. (All rights to Getty Images)