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Remembering Thai Coup

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Download This month marks six years since the Thai royal army overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra.

The coup divided Thais into Red and Yellow groups – those who supported and opposed PM Thaksin.

Kannikar Petchkaew in the northern city of Chiang Mai takes us back to the scene and talks to people whose life has changed because of the coup.

Kamsai Udomsri has been selling fried banana for 30 years in Chiang Mai. Local people call her Aunty Noy, as a way to respect her.

But today she’s also one of the leaders of the Red Shirt movement that supports the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

She’s 62 and a grandmother of two, but Kamsai has been actively running the Red Shirt movement for the last six years.

“I only finished school in primary school but the Red Shirt leaders came to me because they know I have lots of support from the community. I often go out to meet with the community, even though it’s at night I go and explain about the law and what actually happened.”

She organized her community into demonstrations.

To fund her political activities she fundraises in her community or borrows money at a very high interest rate.

But Kamsai says getting people to take part was easy.

“When there was a demonstration in Bangkok I would tell my friends that I would go, and ask if they want to join and they just come over more and more.”

The Thai Military staged the coup six years ago claiming the government was abusing its power and was massively corrupt.

Outsted Prime Minister Thaksin was later given a two-year jail sentence for corruption but fled to the UK. And now living in the United Arab Emirates

When his party again gain the vast majority in many elections but prevented to run the government, his Red Shirt supporters took to the streets and things became violence.

Almost 100 people were killed in clashes between the army and the protestors.

But Aunty Noi is proud that she got all her followers home safely.

A life-changing experience didn’t just happen on the street.

Wittaya Krongsup is the senior manager of an international insurance company.

Sitting at a five star hotel in Chiang Mai, he explains the impact of the 2006 military coup on this life.

“This coup d’etat cost is the most costly in our history. It costs the country unmeasured lost in every aspects and will are still feeling its affects up until now and will still do in the future.”

He believes that the political conflict that lead to the coup and all the turmoil that followed were caused by Thaksin’s abuse of power.

“It’s ok to be supported by the majority but it doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want when you have that majority in hand.”

Wittaya turned himself from a promising businessman who didn’t care about politics into a serious political activist.

Every day he would run his political campaign through emails, SMS, Facebook and Twitter.

He now tells people to keep an eye on the current government lead by Thakin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

He believes she and her administration are controlled by her brother, who lives abroad.

Just a few minutes from the hotel, in Chiangmai University, someone’s life has also changed.

“The result of the crackdown and the killing of the people probably prompted me to ask a kind of question that most academic would have. But they did not have energy to answer. So I asked the question to myself, why the military used the same kind of ways to wipe out people who have different views. I started to do the research and find out the truth.”

Pinkaew Lueng-aramsri is a socio-anthropologist who used to enjoy not thinking about politics.

But now, with the help from an overseas funder, she and her colleges run a bookshop where they also hold political debates and forums.

“What we have tried to do is to open up the new way of looking at this protest, trying to move away from the idea that the conflict is just among the elite and give a better understanding to the general public about the political change.”

No matter how much their lives changed, no matter how different the views, all seem to agree that the coup d’etat was a wakeup call.

Now more and more people are taking an interest in politics.

“Now all people from all walks of life, even the ones who hide in the darkest and deepest place, can come out and have their voice heard.”

“The coup served the purpose of the elites, yes. But it has also has created a new space where rural people are freer to give their opinions.”

“The people are not stupid any more. They are tasawang.”

In Thai “Tasawang” means “awakened eyes” – it’s a widely used term after the coup.

There is a widespread view that the coup has made people more politically aware.



Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 September 2012 13:48 )  

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