Thaksin’s Red Shirts

Village in the jungle - Chiang Mai Region, Thailand

Thaksin’s Red Shirts

Sometimes hitching from A to B can give you a little slice of the larger political background. In our case A was Sukothai in the middle of Thailand and B was Chang Mai, to the north, a distance of about 330km.

After several rides that crept us further north we were picked up by a middle-aged gentleman and his son. Both were dressed head-to-toe in red. The colour was significant. In Thailand the political situation is both confusing and relatively fluid but the warring factions can be roughly subdivided into 3 groups. Made up of supporters of the disposed former president Thaksin Shinawatra, ‘Thaksin’s Red Shirts’ are made up predominantly of the rural masses and urban working class of Bangkok. The ‘Yellow shirts’ consisting mainly of the Royal upper class and the urban middle classes. And the murky ‘Blue shirts’ who appear to be recruited by the government as a means of counter balancing the other groups but it’s still a source of confusion.

On this day and in this car we were with the Red shirts. Now my knowledge of Thaksin stretched as far as mistrust, given his predisposition for authoritarian forms of government but seeing as we were in their country, and even more importantly in their car, I felt it best not to raise my scepticism. Which was probably just as well.

‘You like Thaksin?’ asked the increasingly uncovered member of Thaksin’s Red Shirts.

‘Yes, of course.’ I lied courteously.

Our driver then proceeded to tell us about the joys of the red shirt movement. Informing us that he was on his way to a secret meeting where he hoped to speak to the man himself via a video link.

‘That’s great!’ I said encouragingly trying to stay as non-committal as possible.

The only problem was that the man and his son were late. Why they had time to stop and pick up hitch-hikers I never asked but there you go. Seeing as our driver couldn’t take us all the way north he decided that the best method would be to find a car with a number plate from the city we were heading to.  He choose to undertake this task but racing up to cars on the motorway, pulling level (at about 100MpH) and leaning out of the window, driving with one hand and flagging them down with the other.

What must those other drivers have thought? Anyway, it was perhaps unsurprisingly unsuccessful. As nice as they both were we had no wish to inconvenience them further so our driver accepted defeat and let us out of the car.

 It was not until five minutes later that we noticed a car parked about 100 metres away, with tinted windows. The car sat and watched us for about twenty minutes, with nobody entering or leaving during this time. Had the car followed us? Were they interested in us because we had just got out of a Redshirt’s car? Curiosity got the better of us and we approached the car, only to see it pull away and drive off.

Thaksin's Red Shirts

written by: Jon

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