THAILAND LETTER: Lessons learned



15 June
LETTER: Lessons learned
by Rey Lopez
[Note: With
the support of the CPT-Philippines regional group, CPTer Rey Lopez traveled to
Thailand as a peace observer to document how the Red Shirts nonviolent movement
played out in Bangkok.  His letters
have been edited for length and clarity.]
7 June 2010

My Dear
Thai friends,

I recently
took a ten-day vacation in a Filipino province where the New People’s Army
(NPA) has a significant presence, somewhere in the Sierra Madre range.  The mountain range acts as a shelter
and safe base for Filipino activists working in the Philippine urban areas—in
trade union movements, urban poor communities, or sectors like women, youth,
tribal minorities, and fisher folks. 
They seek refuge in the Sierra Madre whenever the legal organizing in
the urban white areas is getting dangerous.

I have been
musing on the Thai nonviolent movement lately.  When the entire senior leadership of the United Front for
Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) surrendered peacefully to the Thai
authorities, that was nonviolence in its highest form—taking responsibilities for
the cause you believe in rather than fleeing to the countryside or abroad and
leaving the flocks for the slaughter. 
The Red Shirt movement was able to assert its moral superiority to the
beast.  At the same time, it
rendered the entire Thai mass movement orphaned.  But not for long—whenever two or three people are gathered
in the name of the Lord of liberation, a seed of liberation is in their midst.

There are
lessons to be learned from the sixty-day battle of Bangkok.  One lesson is that massive formation of
nonviolent activists can disarm the might of the beast.  I thought at one critical moment on 10
April that that the army and the police would completely refuse their line of
command, but it did not happen.

when the Thai army started their free firing into central Bangkok, there was no
corresponding adjustment in the strategy of nonviolence from the Red Shirts
leadership.  I think they should
have adjusted to the new situation by dispersing their organized forces into
the countryside, where the terrain and organizations there would help
them.  The UDD leadership should
not have wasted valuable resources and people power in an area that they could
not hold for long, central Bangkok. 
A nonviolent mass movement is about influencing the organized masses for
the common good and not about holding a specific territory.

I would
like to quote a bike-riding Thai Red Shirt prachahon who was on his way home
after the battle of Bangkok and shouted to a truckload of Thai army soldiers,
“See you next Songkran [Thai New Year] in Bangkok.”  Yes indeed, the Thai struggle goes
on.  The Red Shirts will be back to
claim their rightful place under the warm Thai sun as free people.  “For under the breast of every
Thai is a beating red heart” yearning to be freed from the remnants of
Thai feudalism.

The whole
world will have to learn important lessons from the nonviolent movement of the
Thai Red Shirts prachachons, both positive and negative.  I can just imagine that the CIA station
in Bangkok must be very busy these last few months and will continue to try
figuring out how to contain the social consequences of the Red Shirt social
movement, not only in Thailand, but also in the entire Asian continent.



Reynaldo C.


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