When Some Reds are like Ultra-Royalists

Soon after Vipar Daomanee, a former Thammasat University lecturer, criticized red-shirt leader Nattawut Sai-gua for his endorsement of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s decision to pay respect to Privy Council President Gen. Prem Tinsulanond, Vipar received a short note from an audience at a symposium she spoke on lese majeste law and prisoner of conscience Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.


Vipar and Pravit at '365 Days of Somyot in Jail', on 29 April 2012 (photo from Thailand Mirror)

The letter, from a person identified as a red shirt, warned Vipar that she can say whatever she likes but she should not sow rift within the red-shirt movement by criticizing Nattawut.

If you are one of those people who feel that a good number of red shirts have not really learnt to appreciate the true value of open criticism, you are not alone.

Perhaps they are not aware, but reds who are intolerant of criticism of Thaksin and of their other leaders are in a way very much similar to ultra-royalists who can bear nothing that is even mildly critical of the monarchy institution.

Years of political polarization means red shirts, as well as ultra-royalists yellow and multi-coloured shirts, think their group alone are absolutely right and so there is no need to take in any from outside or engage in open self-criticism-cum-introspection.

Reds who can’t take criticism or appreciate the value of criticism in a democratic society can’t seriously claim to be fighting for democracy. And if some of these reds do not stop calling themselves fighters for democracy, they will simply be doing a disservice to the notion of democracy itself, which at any rate is already a very loaded term in Thai politics since you can also claim to be staging a military coup for democracy.

Years of each over-exposure to their own political media means to some reds (as well as yellow and multi-coloured shirts) are used to only one-sided news and information about their leaders and movement. They also grew increasingly suspicious of anyone who criticized their leaders, thinking that there must be a deeper reason or conspiracy. This is just like ultra-royalists who believe that those who voiced opposition to the draconian lese majeste law must all be seeking to sow rift in society and part of a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy - real or imagined.

That’s the danger of over consumption of one-sided information and complete adoration of someone, be it the King, Thaksin or Nattawut.

It is most ironic that these red shirts who can’t bear to listen to criticism of Thaksin and Nattawut would dislike ultra-royalists so much for their fondness of one-sided ‘positive-only’ information about the Thai monarchy.

But why?

Could it be that they are so used to adoring someone, so when they no longer adore the King and Queen, they would have to seek to adore someone else like Thaksin instead? By the way, portraits of Thaksin can be found hanging on the walls of a good number of rural red shirts’ homes, that it reminds me of the pictures of the King and Queen.

It’s unclear what percentage of red shirts are intolerant of criticism but it constitutes a serious challenge to the red-shirt movement in particular and Thai society in general.

Thailand can’t afford to have so many political groups being intolerant of criticism if, especially if all of them claim to be wishing for a genuine democracy.

Time and again, I have kept reminding red shirts whom I met that they should be fighting to free themselves and not merely fighting to replace one group of elites with another.

The prospect is not good, however, because I can count only one influential red shirt who is keen on open self-criticism and appreciates the value of criticism against Thaksin and other red leaders. His name is Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boon-ngam-anong, and he once told me when he criticized Thaksin for being bossy about how the Yingluck Shinawatra administration ought to run the country, he was accused by some reds of being an enemy disguising himself as a red shirt. And Sombat is the man who defied the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s emergency decree right after the bloody crackdown ended in May 2010.

Note: Being a co-speaker next to Vipar on the symposium, I seized the opportunity to warn red shirts at the gathering that intolerance is definitely not democratic, unless some of the red shirts in the audience want to be more like ultra-royalists themselves.

Hearing my criticism later on Twitter, well-known host at Voice TV, MR Nattakorn Devakul tweeted to me in English saying: “Most reds I know love bashing Thaksin; in fact, they have a lot of fun doing it and still do especially now with so much backtracking”.

I partly agree, though I think these reds tend to be the so-called ‘progressive reds’ (แดงก้าวหน้า) minority and with the exception of one or two, they mostly confine themselves to criticizing Thaksin or red shirt leaders in private. It’s chillingly similar to nasty gossips on the Thai monarchy that many who called themselves royalists frequently indulge in.

Comments

Going through proxy as

Going through proxy as Prachatai English page is shown on my computer today as blocked by MICT.
" ขออภัยในความไม่สะดวก
เว็บไซต์ที่ท่านต้องการเข้าชมได้ถูกระงับการเผยแพร่ตามคำสั่งจากกระทรวงเทคโนโลยีสารสนเทศและการสื่อสาร

สอบถามข้อมูลเพิ่มเติมได้ที่ กระทรวงเทคโนโลยีสารสนเทศและการสื่อสาร
เลขที่ 120 หมู่ 3 ชั้น 6 อาคารศูนย์ราชการเฉลิมพระเกียรติ 80 พรรษาฯ ถ.แจ้งวัฒนะ เขตหลักสี่ กรุงเทพ 10210
โทร. 02-141-6950

Sorry for any inconvenience.
The page you are trying to visit has been blocked by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

For more information, please contact Ministry of Information and Communication Technology
120 Moo 3, floor 6, Government Complex Commemorating His Majesty the Kings 80th Birthday
Changwattana Road, Laksi, Bangkok 10210 Tel. 02-141-6950

Not sure if chillingly similar, last paragraph, is the word to use, or at least the word to use when making a critique of the Red Shirts. Thailand is rampant with chillingly similar prejudices, biases and intolerance from one color to the next, and of course, always predominated by an ultra-ist leadership fringe that can't tolerate criticism or diversity of opinion. It is Thai culture in the way here, and it is, and always have been in its own way, an enemy of democracy and freedom of expression, let alone self determination.

It reminded me of what a

It reminded me of what a friend recently observed about what passes as Buddhism in Thailand. He said that Thai culture, or the impulsive Thainess sociopolitical nature of "the Thai" has dragged down Buddhism to the Thai level.
It's a pretty prejudicial view to hold, and obviously full of holes easily analyzed. But the point is that what is presented as Buddhism in Thailand is anything but Buddhism.
Interested in whether anyone really has given this aspect of the culture much thought.

The letter, from a person

The letter, from a person identified as a red shirt, warned that ... she should not sow rift within the red-shirt movement by criticizing Nattawut.

Sounds like a self-appointed Phuea Thai 'red shirt leader'.

Perhaps they are not aware, but reds who are intolerant of criticism of Thaksin and of their other leaders are in a way very much similar to ultra-royalists who can bear nothing that is even mildly critical of the monarchy institution.

The ones who are intolerant of criticism of Thaksin and the leadership are ... either the 'red shirt leadership' themselves or 'red shirt leadership' stooges. The rank and file red shirts are democrats, so by definiton there are as many red shirt factions as there are red shirts.

Reds who can’t take criticism ... can’t seriously claim to be fighting for democracy ... if ... these reds do not stop calling themselves fighters for democracy ... they will ... be doing a disservice to the notion of democracy itself

Agree here. That would be Phuea Thai, in my opinion. You still have trouble telling red shirts from Phuea Thai, in my opinion. The PT are just another elitist party, as anti-democratic as any other elitist party. They have mastered the art of getting elected by delivering ... something. In the land of the cold-blooded reptiles the bird who drops a (well-fertilized) seed on your head is king.

Time and again, I have kept reminding red shirts ... they should be fighting to free themselves and not ... to replace one group of elites with another.

Please keep it up ... the weather is bound to change now that the degree to which the Phuea Thai is betraying their constituents is undeniable.

Hearing my criticism later on Twitter, well-known host ... tweeted to me in English saying: “Most reds I know love bashing Thaksin ... especially now with so much backtracking”.

I partly agree, though I think these reds ... mostly confine themselves to criticizing Thaksin or red shirt leaders in private. It’s chillingly similar to nasty gossips on the Thai monarchy that many who called themselves royalists frequently indulge in

Now, now .. don't be so spiteful. You may have a foot in each camp, Pravit, but both feet are surely in the elitist portions of both camps. When's the last time one of your monarchist buddies tweeted you bashing the monarchy ... in any language?

This endless attempt to

This endless attempt to equate Red Shirts being thin-skinned about criticism to the machinations of 60years of Thai fascism/ultra-royalism is getting tiresome now.

Compare these two things.

When you criticise Nattawut you get a small note delivered to you.

When you criticise the monarchy you get a full-blown media-led hate campaign, that sometimes involves the army issuing death threats and can also lead to decades in prison.

People everywhere are always intolerant and Pravit is really mistaken and incredibly naive if he thinks that doesn't exist in democracies.

The real point is when intolerance becomes part of a state's sanctioned, mode of operating, where it is legislated for and entrenched. Given the unending amount of lies, bullshit, poison and crap thrown at PT and the Red Shirts' way a small paper note is as nothing when compared to the defence of the elite and their partners, the Thai Army.

In this case it seems as though Pravit couldn't taken criticism from the floor. You had a comment - deal with it, don't lecture people like a priest.

Whereas I agree to some

Whereas I agree to some extent with the gist of the article, any red shirt I discuss TS with (whom I am not particularly fond of) allows me my say. usually they disagree but some are of the opinion it is still the lesser of evils. I do not have to live in fear of my whispers being overheard, consequently summoned and sentenced to a lengthy jail term without ever being allowed openly to discuss nor what I said nor the justification of being charged and jailed.

Nor is it fair to suggest the red shirts have been under a constant, pro-TS onslaught of information. The country folk sit in front of their TVs and watch the same upper class soap opera crap and slanted MSM news everybody else in the city does and the MSM is still largely either controlled or self censored. "Overexposure to their own political media" is neglecting the fact their own media is a drop in the bucket.

In essence I agree with what Andrew Spooner writes: "The real point is when intolerance becomes part of a state's sanctioned, mode of operating, where it is legislated for and entrenched. Given the unending amount of lies, bullshit, poison and crap thrown at PT and the Red Shirts' way a small paper note is as nothing when compared to the defence of the elite and their partners, the Thai Army."

The red shirt/UDD movement has come to a point where, if they do not see the BS coming from the Pheu Thai, and wait passively while the 111 return to take over and rule from the inner circle of "those who know", as a movement it will risk being sucked up into meaninglessness or disintegration into political invalidity and impotence.