Why I think the Yellow Shirts failed

Friend asked me “How did the Yellow Shirts fail?” for posterity I would like to share the lessons learned.

TL;DR: a movement driven with the aim to destroy only knows how to destroy.

My impression is that in the very beginning, when we were the underdog with no chance of winning whatsoever, we adapted the Gandhi playbook, Ahimsa (nonviolence). We took care of our character, preached truth and good governance and treated everybody (except Thaksin and company, where we unravelled) with compassion. Opposition to Thaksin was mostly in the form of satire, which was creative and quite clever or based on ideology, i.e. the now famous yellow coloured shirts that said “We will struggle* for our King”. Threats of violence were dealt with politely, I still remember witnessing negotiations that won over police and instigators were escorted out of the area efficiently. The thought of driving bulldozers into police line or making provocateurs beg for their lives would at the time have been considered barbaric.

* or fight

Over the months, we degraded. The first person who used an expletive was หลวงตามหาบัว (Luang Ta Maha Bua) who I think called Thaksin an animal (equivalent to “bastard” in English) we were pretty shocked but I think that’s when we felt like we were permitted to loosen our commitment to Ahimsa and the movement took a more aggressive turn.

By the time the Red Shirt saga finished, we were so consumed by hatred and fear that for the most part we became a twisted reflection of the object of our hatred. This was apparent when the PDRC got started and continued the downward spiral from where the Red Shirts left off. From being shocked by “bastard” coming from the stage, we now find comments about Yingluck’s private parts to be acceptable. Perhaps the ugly truth is that the Red shirts and Yellow shirts are inherently the same.

Once we were focused on destruction, we continued on the path. We don’t know how to build, only destroy and our only tool is violence in some form or another. Corruption? Execute. Distasteful media? Gag. Disloyal opinions? Prison. Cruelty, loathing, haste, pride and fear are an integral part of our identity, and this is where we part ways.

What would I do differently now?

I no longer put time and energy into bringing things down, now I go out and be involved in building things or supporting causes that bring about positive change. So far, it seems to work.

All of the above is my personal experience and should not be taken as authoritative in any way.


CC BY 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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