Part 3 of 5
During the coup year in 2006, men went to agitate against the coup under no particular banner. Their mission was to trigger a crackdown to discredit the coup makers and thus set the conditions for amnesty to clear everyone.
For most Thai politicians this tactic would be enough to taunt the government with, but Thaksin was too savvy and internationally minded for that. For international acceptability and maximum leverage, aging socialists and communists were resurrected to give Thaksin’s goals a plausible rationale beyond his own near-term goals. These people are true believers who had once dreamed of a Siamese republic. Others in their number still have quixotic dreams of a socialist state in which the property of top families would be reapportioned to the poor.
These men have been perhaps the most open about acknowledging Thaksin’s patronage and the disconnect between Thaksin’s goals and their own. However, they have made it clear that they were focusing on creating a new egalitarian movement beyond the very near term crony capitalist goals of Thaksin and his family.
The recent turn of events must be discouraging. In Red Shirt rallies the threat of revolution is gone. The true believers sit patiently listening to exhortations to remember who are behind the shootings, that the Red Shirts must vote for the Pheu Thai Party and, if the Pheu Thai Party cannot form a government, this would be unfair and the Red Shirts will become dissatisfied again.
It may be that in the coming years there will be real attempts by some parts of the Red Shirt movement to exert their independence from Thaksin and fulfill some of the social welfare dreams they have been talking about.
However, the Thai establishment has a talent for absorbing and absolving groups which threaten it (for instance the students who fled to the forests after the 1976 crackdown). At the same time, Thaksin has every reason to make sure the Red Shirts continue to support his political parties and provide the muscle on the ground in Bangkok in key times if need be. It will likely be hard for the Red Shirts to break away and stand as an independent movement for change.
In any event, the present government may have a short tenure. Next year with the mass of politicians returning after their five year ban we will see agitation for elections once again. While it is true that the banned politicians have merely ruled through proxy MPs, there will be a great desire for many of these kingpins to openly strut on the political stage again.
An influx of political players coming back on the scene again is yet another political dilution of Thaksin control. It further means that the upcoming new government may be his best chance to urgently push through the measures necessary to return while he still has control.