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Reminiscence or Renaissance of ‘Red Zones’

Reportage from Red Shirts strong-hold North East, Thailand (1)

by Yu-Kyung Lee - Mukdahan, Khon Ken, Kalasin (Thailand), 20 July 2010
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva
photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

On July 6, the cabinet in Thailand has approved the extension of emergency decree in 19 provinces, which includes many of Red Shirts heartlands in North East (or Isaan). The extension came a day after International Crisis Group, the Brussels based-think tank, has recommended the government to immediately lift the decree and hold a fresh election. Yet, the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva has blown off slight hope for early election weeks ago.

There have been tireless efforts to castigate critical voices before and after the bloody crackdown on Red Shirts in May. The Center for the Resolution of Emergency (or CRES), the military-natured institution dealing with the unrest, has shut down some 2,200 website deemed to be violating the Computor Crime Act since the State of Emergency imposed on April 7 this year.

In provinces, the authority seems to intensify royalist campaign following the crackdown. Some village heads in Isaan have received two types of papers from the Ministry of Interior via district office. The first one is to collect signatures for what appeared to be royalist ‘oath’.

‘This person wants to show for their willingness to worship the Monarchy…to  protect  Monarchy to his or her life..,’ reads the oath.

“I was told to collect 300 signatures in my village, but I’m afraid I couldn’t because some villagers are actually reside in other area” said a village head in Kalasin province.

The signature campaign on the loyalty oath for the royal family has seemed to be launched in some village of Issarn. One of the campaigns was to organize a group to "implement" what was written in the paper, fearing Red Shirts supporters who were accused of being anti-monarchy despite their denial.
photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

To more burden him is another paper. It’s about ‘joining the Monarchy protection group’. While the written words are more or less same to the first one, he should ‘organize’ 20 people to ‘implement’ what the paper declares. The idea of organizing a group reminisce some kind of village militia. Villagers, many of whom are Red Shirts supporters, are disturbed, as they have been accused of being anti-monarchy despite their denial.

“We always respect our Monarchy. I don’t know why we should sign to this paper…” said Chuan (55, name changed), a chairperson of Tambon (or sub district) to which the village belongs to.

‘Royalist campaign’ intensified in provinces

Despite non-stop murmuring of ‘reconciliation’ by Prime Minister, a part of his ‘roadmap’ has been the other side, to persecute his critics. Besides detaining core leaders and hundreds protesters, more arrest warrants have been issued for 819 Red Shirts according to Matichon newspaper on June 10. 787 out of the total were from provinces.

Luen Sisupho (42), from Sakon Nakorn, is one of those hundreds on the run. He received a summon paper from police ordering him to turn in by May 25, otherwise arrest warrant would be issued against him. Luen, a local activist of Assembly of the Poor, has never voted for pro-Thaksin party. In fact, he has been distanced himself from Red Shirts until he started to join last March 12 this year.

“I could not agree with what Red Shirts have demanded anymore. Dissolution of the house and new election are very democratic demands, aren’t they?” he asked.

Luen Sisupho (42), the local activist for The Assembly of the Poor, was reading the 'textbook' of 'Nor Por Chor (UDD) school', which was largely organized by UDD last year for political awareness. He has never voted Thaksin party, but joined the Red Shirts movement since this year as he supported dissolution of the house and new election. He's now in hiding.
photo: Yu-Kyung Lee

“Government has lost hearts and minds of people, whereas Red Shirts have won more hearts. There will be more people who join the next protest, I bet” he argued.

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