disclaimer: the unoriginal girl is not politically affiliated with any party. as far as she's concerned, they're all scum.
It's a strange time for being in Bangkok. Even if 'the unoriginal girl' is mainly a blog about Fashion Design, I find it hard not to talk about what's going on around me. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the situation, I suggest you go to the bbc or the uk guardian websites for better information about the political situation. In a nutshell, Thailand is going through a transition period: a faction of the population, dubbed the 'red shirts' have occupied the main commercial, tourist and administrative areas of the capital, urging the government to dissolve parliament, which they argue was elected undemocratically. The majority of the 'red shirts' are uneducated, rural people which comprise more than 80% of the nation (it's not the exact statistic but I'm sure that's pretty close to the real numbers). They have declared class war, they want to get rid of the monarchy and they are clad in red. Sound familiar? Amazingly, they are not claiming any connection to Marxism, because they've never heard of it.
Anyway, the city is in a frenzy. 'Reds' are everywhere, either just sporting a red scarf or t-shirt or they take it so seriously their attire, hair and underpants are various shades of crimson. So yesterday I went to Ratchaprasong intersection (base-camp of the protesters) with the intention of getting some photographs for my Red Fashion article. I wanted to find the most extreme and amusing interpretations of the red shirt uniform. The trip was unsuccessful. We (my photographer boyfriend and I) went there quite late in the evening, most of them were tired and sleeping in improvised shelters on the street. I didn't find any outfit worth of notice. Nonetheless it was a very interesting expedition. There were probably still 3-4 thousand people there, but the atmosphere was light and joyful, it felt like a huge county fair. There were vendors selling all you need to be a 'red shirt' (garments, clappers, whistles, flags etc.), snacks and refreshments, chairs and camping equipment. On the enormous stage erected in the middle of the intersection there was a lady in red (duh) with an amazing red, white and blue wig (the national colors). She was talking to the crowd about democracy and corruption, and then she would stop the speech to sing a song about peace and patriotism. I simply loved how the clappers, from instruments for display of approval for what the red lady was saying instantly turned into musical instruments as the first notes of the song would start playing.
But, apart from the entertainment I started to actually listen to the red lady's speech. She was speaking in conversational Thai, opposed to the 'royal' language used for official communications and even news reports. You see, that language is very archaic and if a Thai person didn't go to school past year 6 (primary school, which is the level of education in rural areas) they would actually have no clue of what those words mean. Words like democracy, civil rights, words about philosophy, politics, medicine, psychology and many more are virtually absent from the vocabulary of a large chunk of the population (and did I mention that rural Thailand is pretty much everything outside of Bangkok?) The red lady was literally giving a lecture about the meaning of those words, telling the uneducated crowds that democracy means 'government by the people' and what it actually translates to in a civilized country. I'm sorry to say this but even if slavery in Thailand was abolished in 1912, the lower class is still virtually in slavery. It sounds harsh but this country still has a very clear separation of society. There is a very small high class (and they are very VERY rich) a growing but still neglect-able middle class, and a vast lower class of people that work ridiculous hours for peanuts. There is no welfare system, the police is highly corrupt, the quality of public education is laughable. Some may argue that no one is forcing these people to work such terrible jobs, and that it's their fault if they aren't better educated. Really? So why is it that every single high ranking manager, CEO, engineer, doctor or any well paid person in Thailand was educated abroad? You cannot call this a democracy if income is an impediment for equal opportunity. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I'm going to stop here.
Now, I'm not saying that I've 'turned red'. I still disagree with many of the things the red shirts are saying and doing (donating blood to splash it on government buildings? what the..??). But I am happy to see them do something. These people have all the right reasons in the world to create such a havoc and demand a real democracy. It's about damned time they stopped being so mai pen rai ('it's ok...' the Thais attitude of accepting their fate) and fought for their rights. Too bad that they were spurred to do so by Mr.T, the richest of the rich, the most corrupt of the corrupt and who is just using them for his personal gain. Oh well, it's not a perfect world.
Here are some pictures of the expedition in red territory.
I talked to my mom this morning, I told her about the trip and she freaked out.
***Photo credits Liam Morgan