Wednesday, 30 September 2009

An evening with the Red Shirts

A couple of weeks ago, I got word of an event from Thailand's UDD political party, referred to as the Red Shirts, that was taking place in Saraburi that Friday evening.

My keen interest in Thailand politics, coupled with the mother-in-law’s passion for the Red cause, saw us take a family outing to the event (cladding The Little One in red was not my idea, honest).

In the UK and the West, political parties keep in touch with their core supporters at grass-roots level using meetings, luncheons, newsletters and drop-in surgeries – here in Thailand it’s a whole different ball game.

The best way to describe a Thai political event is 'roadshow', it's an event geared towards entertaining whilst party officials, discuss and debate their key topics.

The event included a busy market, selling all things red, many things Thaksin and the usual market goods - food, drink, etc.

The main event was the on stage speeches from a host of senior (so I’m told) Red Shirt officials – although I don't know their idenitifes - props to anyone who can identify them below.

There was, of course, the obligatory sing-song which saw most party official take to the stage in song. I’d pay good money to see British MPs singing on stage – perhaps there's potential for a horrendous, car-crash celebrity talent show: Westminster Idol.

Unsurprisingly I was the only foreigner there. Not wearing red, along with The Missus, I stuck out like a sore. I need not have worried though.

Despite initial thoughts that I’d be instantly disliked for being a foreigner who was photographing and videoing his way through an event designed for Thais, those I came into contact with were friendly and welcoming.

Political rallies are not renowned for being interesting and well attended at home, unlike the Red rally in Saraburi. The sizeable audience was comprised mainly of families and groups of friends who sat eating and drinking whilst watching the events and speeches on stage.

Though everyone was wearing red, I noticed that many were not supporting official UDD wear, some to have just threw on something red - take for example the woman wearing a Rooney 10 Manchester United shirt.

In one respect it is refreshing that so many people take an active interest in politics; however, from what I know about the types of speeches and rhetoric from both the Reds (UDD) and Yellows (PAD) the content is heavily slanted and rarely objective.

Unfortunately my level of Thai is not sufficient for me to translate the content and my translator, The Missus, has no interested in helping out on this one, alas.

My biggest complaint was the location of the event, which required navigating an dangerously busy dual carriage way route. That said, hardened expats will be used to this sort of thing.

A couple of videos I took from the evening are below.

Apologies for the somewhat jittery video quality. This is down to a combination of unsteady hands, the sound and using my Sony Ericsson as my interim-camera while I wait to get a new one.


Martyn said...

Jon there was a red shirt 'party' in Udon Thani last night and I really wanted to attend it but with time running short Premier League football won the day. Wilai caught a few clips of it on the news and 25,000 red shirts turned out to party in a very similar fashion to your Saraburi event. I can imagine Tony Blair and Gordon Brown singing a duet together, ear plugs at the ready.

Jon said...

Hi Martyn,

Yeah I saw the Udon event - much bigger scale than Saraburi but similar set-up.

To be honest, if there Premiership games on a Friday evening (Thai time) I'd have had a second thought on it.

Was an interesting experience though.

Looks like Gordon is duetting with the (infamous) fat lady who is warming up for May 2010 - cheerio, Mr Brown.