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Have we lost our humanity over the shade of a shirt?

Hatred towards those of different political colours reached alarming new heights last Saturday night when a man wielding a samurai sword stabbed and slashed a red-shirted woman to death and wounded another in Nakhon Ratchasima.

"Are you red-shirted people? Was my boss Sondhi [Limthongkul, the yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy leader] shot because of you people or not?" was the question posed by 33-year-old Pratheep Trairat-rudee, the killer, as quoted by the Daily News newspaper on Sunday.

Pornsiri Otsansri was busy eating her noodles and didn't bother to reply. She didn't even get to finish her soup as she was stabbed twice on her back and slashed on her neck by Pratheep.

In the current climate of deep political divide, some people have literally gone colour mad. One red-shirt leader told a symposium on Sunday it was not safe for him to wear red in public so he would rather keep his red identity in his heart.

The killer didn't really know if Pornsiri, the victim, was a member of the red-shirted, pro-Thaksin Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) or not, but the political identity has been literally thrust upon her by this yellow-shirted pro-People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) assailant.

She has been made "the other" and dehumanised as an object of hatred and this writer would argue that some red-shirted protesters also see those with yellow shirts as their enemy.

Notice the absence of red-shirted leaders expressing any sense of sorrow or regret about the deaths of two Nang Lerng residents back on the night of April 13 when the two killed were amongst those residents who clashed with people who were supposedly red shirts.

Some red-shirted leaders still insist some of those donning red on that night were in fact agents provocateur sent in to make the reds look bad and kill the two men.

However, no one can deny that the fatalities occurred in the Nang Lerng area of Bangkok. And so the question is whether the loss of two human lives is not enough to warrant some form of sympathy on the part of the red shirts and why?

Is it because those killed "are not red-shirts", and thus "the other", otherwise they would have been mourned by the thousands of reds and lauded as their "martyrs"? How then does it differ from the samurai sword killing incident in which the PAD's mouthpiece - ASTV-Manager daily newspapers - didn't even bother to report about it on Monday?

It's now quite apparent that there's a need to keep political conflict as "civil" as possible with as little hatred as possible.

Your political opponent, people donning a different shirt colour for political reasons, need not be viewed as evil personified and warranting a vigilante death sentence. They deserve the same standard of emotional treatment.

In a democracy, they should merely be viewed as political opponents with different political beliefs worthy of respect, as they all do care about politics to lesser or greater extent.

Ask yourself whether you negatively and automatically react to the colour red or yellow (or both) due to your political beliefs or not.

If the answer is yes, then this is not a good sign because your hatred has apparently been coloured and deeply ingrained to a symbolic level.

Perhaps cultivating a new appreciation or even fondness for the colour of your political opponent is worth trying.

It may sound romantic or irrelevant but actually there's a valid and serious cause for concern when hatred is tinted beyond reason and brings out the worse in human instincts and reactions as it inscribes those with the "wrong" colour, or wrong political beliefs, as their enemy, subject to dehumanisation and abuse.

This colour issue must be earnestly addressed before it degenerates into something even worse.

Let no political ideology or group deny you the beauty of the colours yellow and red. Lets tackle colour discrimination now because blue, green and white are quickly becoming politically abused too.

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