Thailand's Red Shirt Protests: Popular Movement or Dangerous Street Theatre?
Social Movement Studies
nearly 90 people were shot dead and more than 2,100 injured in the most serious street fighting in Bangkok for nearly two decades. Television images showed protestors dressed in Red Shirts using slingshots to fight soldiers armed with guns and tanks while shops and buildings burnt. To some observers, these events were a class-based movement of poor people from Thailand's rural zones protesting at an undemocratic government and the lack of inclusion in economic development (e.g. Ungpakorn,
... g. Ungpakorn, 2010). But there is also evidence that these protestswhile based on a large component of mass protest from poorer people -were also carefully managed street theatre. Rather than demonstrating the power of a workers' movement, a variety of factors suggest these conflicts represented clever opportunism of the deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra combined with a variety of symbolic actions by the poorer activists. This combination of influences meant that the conflicts in 2010 were not a unified class-based movement, but an alliance of actors using sporadic and not always successful tactics to influence Thai politics. What insights can the 2010 Red Shirt protests of Thailand offer to social movement studies? Background