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Resentment lingers among the poor over 2006 coup

Go ahead and curse Thaksin Shinawatra as much as you like!  Blame Thaksin for corruption, for using and manipulating the red-shirt mob to risk their lives confronting tanks, armed soldiers, and arrest, to fulfil his insatiable thirst for power and money in the name of "real democracy". Thaksin deserves it. 

Blame Thaksin for all that is wrong with Thai politics and yet you will only get just part of the picture of the April upheaval, bloodshed, and the on-going political division. 

Another piece of this big pic-ture conveniently brushed aside by most of the Thai media and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is that Thaksin is the political mirror of the rural-urban poor and the working class who formed the red-shirt Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD). 

While many view Thaksin as abusive, corrupt and autocratic, there is another element in this mess. Since 2006, these mostly less formally-educated people have learnt that if their choice of prime minister, who they indirectly voted for, could be illegally overthrown in a coup largely supported by the elite, middle class and majority of the Thai media, then there is little hope for their politi-cal voice being heard. Unless they fight, that is. 

This deep angst and sense of injustice and class exploitation is what most Thai media have failed or simply refused to recognise. To them Thaksin is too much of an evil and a threat and so the 100,000 reds who came out to the streets on April 8 must be a paid mob, ignorant poor who have no clue whatsoever what democracy is. 

Well, would anyone be willing to confront deadly weapons, tanks, and risk death for Bt500 or even Bt5,000 a day, especially on Songkran day? 

Yes, those "wearing red" who killed two people in the Nang Lerng area, the hi-jacked LPG tankers and those who attacked the mosque and set buses ablaze need to pay for their crime. Any leaders who incited street violence must be prosecuted. And shame on DAAD leaders like Jakrapob Penkair and Jatuporn Promphan who abandoned their supporters during the tense hours before the expected crackdown and are now on the run. But what about the 2006 coup-makers? And what about Army Chief Anupong Paochinda, who made it possible for this government to rule the country through backdoor talks with Newin Chidchob? And what about the perceived preferential treatment of the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy protesters who seized Bangkok's airports last year? 

The fact is, when Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda was accused by Thaksin earlier this month for being the master-mind behind of the September 2006 coup, a long-standing taboo was broken. The Pandora's box of class consciousness and class exploitation has been opened and Thailand entered an uncharted political terrain. 

It matters little that the Thai mainstream media cannot or are not willing to risk discussing the mass' perceived role of the palace in politics due to lese majeste law. Because many red shirts have been doing that on the radio, online, on the streets, in their homes very blatantly over the past three or so years. The red shirts' media may face a crackdown with D Station off air, community radio stations silenced and, as of yesterday, raids on red shirt radio stations in Chiang Mai and Lampang.  

On the Internet, it's a cat and mouse game as new sites appear almost as quickly as old red sites are blocked. The mighty state cannot hope to forever shut these people's minds and eliminate their doubts about the elite any longer. As one red said after the defeat to this writer: "They have defeated us but not won our hearts." 

The taboo, censorship and patronising attitudes towards the red shirts - the situation is like a patient suffering from a nail lodged in his forehead but with a doctor who only wants to discuss the blood and bruising, and not the nail itself. 

The red shirts have lost trust in the government, the state and most of the Thai media. It's just a matter of time before they rise again to challenge the old elite's control over Thai politics - with or without Thaksin. The seeds of class consciousness and class exploitation have been planted and are growing despite the defeat on Tuesday, which is likely only to be a lost battle in a continuing protracted war.

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