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Discontent Reportedly Rising Within Thai Red Shirts
Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/discontent-reportedly-rising-within-thai/657884.html
Source Date: Monday, April 29, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: Thailand
Created: Apr 29, 2013

BANGKOK: Thailand's Red Shirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), recently marked the third anniversary of the military crackdown that brought an end to their shutdown of Bangkok.

Ninety-one people died in the clashes and critics say those responsible for the deaths have yet to be brought to justice.

Discontent is reportedly rising within the Red Shirt movement, and questions are being raised about whether its leaders are doing enough for the cause.

Formed after the 2006 military coup that ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, their protests were almost a regular occurrence in Bangkok.

In 2010, thousands of Red Shirts brought Bangkok to a standstill with their weeks of anti-government protests, calling for new elections and an end to what they said is an aristocrat-led rule in Thai politics.

Three years on and an election victory of the Pheu Thai Party later, many of the Red Shirt leaders are now MPs or even Cabinet members.

But what else has changed for the movement now, especially for the grassroots activists?

There are reports of rifts in the movement, putting its chairwoman under pressure.

But she remains unshaken.

UDD chairwoman Thida Tavornseth said: "We're not a party of coup makers, where everybody has to tow the same line. But we are a democratic movement, so we have our differences and disputes.

"But our overall strategy has to remain the same. No matter our differences, as long as we all fight against coups, against aristocracy, then it's 'ok'."

Still, critics associated with the Red Shirt movement say that both the government and the UDD have not done enough to help bring justice to those killed or imprisoned for their cause.

Phayao Akahad, mother of a nurse who was killed during the 2010 protests, said: "I personally feel that the government hasn't done as much as I hoped they would. Whether it's the court case (against the soldiers who killed my daughter), justice in general or other things - I'm very frustrated! I'm a relative of a killed victim. It's been three years and the case has gone nowhere!"

Suda Rangkuphan, a human rights activist, said: "It's not enough yet. Currently, the government probably sees that economic development affects a lot more people positively.

"When it comes to those affected by injustice, they think it's a very small group. But for us, even if there would be just one political prisoner left - it'd be one too many!"

The UDD leadership acknowledges that it still has a long way to go but insists the Red Shirts will keep fighting.

But will they fight for the same goals and steer in the same direction? Only time will tell.

- CNA/ir
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