Having played a key role in undermining the legitimacy of Thailand’s monarchy, the yellow shirts are now doing their best to discredit the nation.
The current campaign by the yellow shirts, and their various rabid and fundamentalist off-shoots, is a reflection of a political movement in crisis. With support dwindling, and with the prospects of electoral success looking increasingly remote, they are resorting to the familiar strategy of ultra-nationalism.
The yellow-shirts have been down this road before. Reviving the Phra Viharn dispute in mid-2008 gave their campaign against the Samak government some much-needed momentum. As I wrote at the time:
The Phra Viharn … issue gained prominence in Thailand primarily as a result of an opposition movement that was struggling to find an issue around which it could build a credible campaign against a recently elected government [Samak] that enjoyed parliamentary and electoral dominance. Phra Viharn had been bubbling in the background of Thai public discussion for some time, but in late May and June 2008 it became a focus for opposition protest, as they sought to ramp up their campaign with the PAD march on government house and the Democrat’s pursuit of no-confidence motions in parliament.
The yellow shirts (though most of them don’t seem to wear yellow any more) are now determined to use even more inflammatory rhetoric to give them a new political platform for 2011.
The red shirt leadership must be delighted. With their electoral confidence diminished since the by-election results of December 2010, they will be hoping that the re-emergence of the yellow shirts will both damage Abhisit’s government (the anti-Abhisit invective from Sondhi et al is remarkable) and focus voter’s minds by sharpening the red-yellow political divide.
No one seems to be taking too seriously the claim that the red shirts were planning to bomb the ultra-nationalists rallies. In the current climate, a revived yellow shirt movement may exactly what the red shirts and Pheua Thai need. Even a modest electoral showing by the PAD’s New Politics Party will hurt the Democrats much more than it will hurt Pheua Thai.