A Red Shirt Songkran party and amnesty thoughts

The 104.10 ‘Pathum Thani People’s Radio station’ in Lam Luk Ka near Klong 3, Pathum Thani province, held a small Songkran party on 6 April 6 2012. Previously the small community radio station, then on the 107.85 wave, was located further away at Klong 3, off the Rangsit-Nakhorn Nayok Highway, but they moved after their previous station was damaged by the floods, and the rent of the plot of land was too high. Their leader and one of the station’s DJ’s Wootipong “Go-Tee” Kodchatamkoon said that when they were helping in Ayutthaya water rose in their station, uprooted their antenna and damaged their transmitter. This station, close to the Red Shirt Village Movement, tries to follow a new path — as soon as the investors pay off the debts of their initial investments for their technical equipment, they plan to hand over ownership to an overseeing council, which is to be elected yearly by the members of their station.

The small Songkran party for their members was on an empty plot of land next to the small wooden house in which their station was located. Go-Tee said that they decided to hold the party a few days before the official Songkran holiday as many of their members would leave soon to their home villages, and during Songkran many large Red Shirt events will take place. Main UDD leaders were not invited, as most of them were busy preparing the larger Songkran events. But Go-Tee said that a main reasons was also their philosophy “tuk khon pen kaenam tua eng” — or “everybody is his/her own leader”, first propagated by Sombat Boonngamanong shortly after the Ratchaprasong crackdown.

The party began in the afternoon. A dozen elders sat on a row of chairs and the Red Shirts, after washing a small Buddha figure, washed the hands of the elders with scented water in the traditional Songkran way. Several children splashed each other with water from a large bucket. There was free food made by members of the station.

A group of dancers came on the stage, and then sat on the encircled ground. Red Shirts bought tickets to dance a Ram Wong (a folk dance in which the dancers move in a circle) with the dance group. Several of the dances were sponsored by elders. Quite mesmerising was a “Ram Fon Ngan Mongkhon” dance performed by an older woman on the stage.

The evening was mostly lighthearted, singing and dancing, with several brief political speeches. A topic that came up often was the reconciliation process and the planned amnesty, first propagated by the KPI report, and then followed by the government. People there were very critical of the planned amnesty, and especially about Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung, whom they viewed not as part of the Red Shirt movement, but as a politician they deeply distrusted. People stated that they want the truth first before thinking about an amnesty. They said also that the Pheua Thai Party is not bigger than the people, and has to listen to the people first.

One of the leaders on the stage said that their fight is not just for Thaksin, though they still love him, but for the future of their children, and that people shouldn’t have died for nothing. He said that Abhisit, Suthep and Yellow Shirt leaders should also be in prison, and that the “Amart” should stay where they belong and not interfere. Several of the local leaders said that the present reconciliation process and the idea of an amnesty could result in conflicts in the Red Shirt movement as some parts are for an amnesty, but others are strongly opposed