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stop-bullying

Toronto

Allusions to Dr. Seuss aside, with the lifting of the state of emergency in Bangkok I thought I would give you my impressions of the situation from the inside.

The current political situation in Thailand is as polarized as the various coloured shirts worn by the various advocates.

The main factions in this struggle are the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) wear yellow shirts and are primarily urban and business people who support the current government that was formed when the PAD protest last December forced the previous government out of office due to allegations of corruption. Rather than dissolve parliament, many MPs defected to the Democrat Party and a new coalition was formed led by now Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Apparently the previous government had never heard of proroguing parliament.

The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) wear red shirts and are primarily rural and view the current government as having illegally come to power after the Yellow Shirt protests.  The goal of the recent Red Shirt protests were to force the government to resign and call a general election.

So who are these Blue Shirts and White Shirts?

During the recent Red Shirt protest at the ASEAN leaders summit hosted by Prime Minister Abhisit (Thai convention uses the given name after the title rather than the surname, I am Mr Greg not Mr Beach) in Pattaya a new group of Blue Shirts appeared with the phrase "Protect the Institution" on their shirts.  The Blue Shirts clashed with the Red Shirts as the latter attempted to disrupt the summit. At one point the Red Shirts overran the hotel that was hosting the summit which forced Prime Minister Abhisit to cancel the summit for the sake of the safety of the leaders in attendance.

After the cancellation of the summit the The Red Shirt protest consolidated in Bangkok around Government House (the offices of the Prime Minister and his cabinet).  The protest culminated in the declaration of the state of emergency and the unfortunate violence that followed.  Both the Red Shirts and the government claimed the other as the aggressor but regardless of fault or the fact that order has been restored to Bangkok, the core issues that triggered the protest still remain unresolved.

In an unusual move, last week Prime Minister Abhisit held a joint parliamentary session for two days to discuss ways to end the political standoff. It is unclear if anything positive will come out of the discussions as much of the dialogue involved the two sides pointing fingers at each other over the handling of the recent crisis.

An emerging faction in this struggle are the White Shirts.  They are a growing group of Thais who are growing weary of the political posturing and maneuvering of the two main protagonists and want them to put aside their differences for the time being for the sake of the economic and social health of the country.

Even Thai pop star Jintara Poonlarb has joined in with the Pink Shirts. Her goal is a new political movement that promotes peace and love. She's no John Lennon but she might be on to something.

As I have no stake in the outcome of this struggle, I have stayed away from offering any opinion whenever the topic is mentioned for fear of offending someone or risking their ire. But I have observed some parallels between Canada and Thailand.  Like Canadians, the Thai people are polite and friendly with a generous spirit.  We are both generally indifferent to most things but when it comes to our politics you'll find few among us that doesn't have a strong opinion and is willing to debate it to all hours.

At the present time the issues that divide the Thai people are of such a polarizing nature that they are sometimes enraged to the point of extreme, perhaps even desperate action.  However, if you look at Thailand's history the current constitution has only been in effect since 1997 so from that perspective it is still a very young country trying to find it's way as a full-fledged democracy.  And even a country as peaceful as Canada had it's violent periods, call them growing pains, such as the Red River Rebellion in 1869, the North-West Rebellion (aka Riel Rebellion) in 1885, the On to Ottawa Trek in 1935 and more recently the October Crisis in 1970.

I only hope that the current differences in Thailand can be resolved with little if any more bloodshed.