Interview with a prominent red-shirt 'cyber warrior'

As the political standoff continues, Pravit Rojanaphruk talks to "Luke Chao Na Thai" or "Thai Peasant's Son", an influential red-shirt intellectual whose articles under the pen name is widely followed by many middle-class red shirts. "Luke Chao Na Thai" was educated in Thailand and England. He is a bureaucrat in his mid forties who kept his real identity secret due to his bureaucratic status. His father is a humble peasant from a province in the lower Northern region of Thailand.


1) Some say red shirts could not articulate their political stance well with the educated middle class in Bangkok, especially on the issue such as why they continue to support Thaksin Shinawatra even after the February 26 Supreme Court's verdict on Thaksin so-called "ill-gotten wealth".

I think many people see red shirts as being too closely identified with Thaksin. Looking back to the year 2001 [when Thaksin came to power] many [rural folks] left the agriculatural sector to work in cities and they have started to vote for political party [and not individual politician]. Thaksin administers [the country] to their satisfaction. The coup [in 2006] was an act against those who voted for Thaksin. [Thaksin] is like their representative. The folks feel that the rich, later on refered to as the bureaucratic-aristocratic elite [amataya] has destroyed their common rights.

Folks may not be able to articulate but in fact they are fighting for their common rights and Thaksin is their representative.

2) Do you think there exist a communication gap between red shirts vis-a-vis the middle class and elite?

I think it's the more of a problem of the mainstream mass media whose duty is to seek truth and not [the problem] of the [red-shirt] people. I have long suggested that the current political situation is that of political polarization. People do not subscribe to media [of opposite political orientation]. When the mainstream media leaned against red shirts they were regarded as pro-bureaucratic-aristocratic elite.

As of now they don't care about mainstream media. In a state of political polarization, everyone will not listen to mainstream media as they have their own media. Those in the middle looses influence. As for myself, I haven't been reading mainstream media since Abhisit [Vejjajiva] came to power.

3) Are we witnessing a class war?

I fact I feel it has begun a long time ago, since the [2006] coup, but [red-shirt] leaders may not be so clear about it... There are red shirts who are from the grass roots people who are fighting for their common rights. Then there's the middle class [red shirts] who don't have their own media because most of the well-known media outlets are yellow-shirts and they don't have speakers like Doctor Prawase [Wasi]. But on the internet, people know [about their existence]. These people may have socialist thinking and do not think much about Thaksin but see [Thaksin] as a tool to ignite democratic revolution. There are some who personally like Thaksin but in general they regard Thaksin as a symbol.

Do you think people like Ji [Ungparkorn] respects Thaksin? Or [red-shirt leader] Doctor Weng [Tojirakarn] for that matter? People have awoken and red-shirts know who is behind [the problem].

The trio of buddies [red-shirt leaders] cannot control those down below since they're independently organised.

4) Why can't red-shirts abandon Thaksin and fight without him since many sees Thaksin and the three red-shirt leaders as exploiting ordinary red-shirt demonstrators?

Fooling them or not I don't know but Thaksin is their idol. If they abandon [Thaksin] their power will diminish by 60 per cent. About 80 per cent of red shirts are rural people and I don't think the [red-shirt] middle class number more than 500,000.

Why should I abandon this big chunk of the masses? You may at most gain 100,000 [new anti-Thaksin red-shirt sympathizers by abandoning Thaksin]. As for [Thaksin's corruptions] red shirts feel you have no proof to show them.

5) How do you see the current conflict ending?

It will end with rules that are just. Like football match, what is needed is not reconciliation but fair rules. If you still think Thaksin is bad or that red shirts are hired by Thaksin then let us fight on until the opponents accept that red shirts are fighting for democracy. What the yellow shirts and the mainstream mass media did not ask is where the real [political] problem lies. I think the society knows but try to lie to themselves. So we shall fight on then.

I studied about the French Revolution and discovered that we're now in a situation like the year 1785 in France... The French Revolution took place in 1789 so we are almost there. As long as the mainstream mass media will not try to present the truth and yet talk about reconciliation, it cannot end. Khun Pravit, you know who is at the root cause of the problem right?

6) Some say the dissolution of the House is not the solution because if red shirts returned to power then the yellow shirts will protest anew.

Are you trying to exaggerate something to make yellow shirts seem bigger than it really is and red shirts smaller? I think the yellow-shirt demonstrations was set up by the elite but as long as common rules cannot be agreed upon there will be no ending. Not even with the House dissolution. When both parties are tired then they can really talk about common rules. By observing political mayhem in neighbouring countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, I think it will take 10 years [to sort things out in Thailand]. The institution is also corroding in its sacredness as more cited the institution for political actions.

7) Do you feel that it is difficult to be a red shirt and a bureaucrat at the same time since you cannot appear publicly to speak out?

Not much. In the demonstration, I learnt that 20 to 25 per cent of the middle class [reds] are government officials. Are you not curious as to why government secrets leak? It's because half of bureaucrats are red shirts while the other half are yellow shirts.

8) The longer red shirts demonstrates the more traffic jam it will cause, and it will affect tourism and the economy too. Can this be good for the red shirts themselves?

Right now, the society is already divided into red and yellow. There are no more non-partisan people left. Why should we care for yellow shirts since they dared to support a military coup [in 2006]? Thus the society must accept the consequences as long as they're not willing to negotiate.

There are Bangkokians who cheer for red shirts. Half of Bangkok is red.

9) A number of educated middle class and elites think poor and less educated Thais should not enjoy equal political rights as they're neither educated nor have time to follow current affairs. What do you think of such ethos?

When America began holding elections 200 years ago half of the population couldn't read. Voting has more to do about conscience and about what you will gain from it. We must consider the common rights of these people and these people must consider their fundamental interests as well.

I don't think educated people excercise their electoral choice in a more rational way than the less educated. Bangkokians may think about [more] subways while rural folks do think about what [problems] they're confronting. 


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22 Apr 2021
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