When the Red Shirts first appeared, they were fairy mainstream along one of Thailand’s political ideologies. But in the past year or so they have been drifting to the more radical to enforce their ideology and not let it ebb and flow in a democratic way with other ideologies.
The origin of the Red Shirts came from Thaksin Shinawatra and were more or less his private army made up of people who mostly benefitted from his populist policies. Those populist policies were meant to get a solid voter base. Many Red Shirts were rice farmers and other poor people who felt they had lost their voice and were being ignored or passed over by the Government. The Red Shirts first appeared in May of 2007 just before the court was to rule on the status of the Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT). The wearing of red shirts was more a show of solidarity at that time showing support for Thaksin and his party.
The result of that ruling was the TRT violated election rules in 2006 and supported a fake party to run against them. That resulted in the TRT being dissolved and party list members were banned from politics for 5 years. Thaksin was one of those banned.
The Red Shirts also seemed to endorse political criminal activity. In other words to support corruption as long as it benefitted Thaksin and ultimately them in the end. For what it is worth, that seemed to be their political ideology. At this early stage many Thai rice farmers of northeast Thailand signed on and actively supported the movement.
A few months after the TRT met their fate, a new Constitution had been drafted and put up for a nation wide yes or no vote. The Constitution was designed with Thaksin or people like Thaksin in mind as a way to maintain checks and balances, and to keep corrupt politicians from consolidating too much power. The Red Shirts were used by Thaksin to spread the word to vote no on the Constitution. When the final vote was counted the areas of Thailand that were occupied by Red Shirts had a near unanimous no vote, when the rest of the country voted yes. In the end some 63% of all Thais voted to accept the new Constitution and it was signed into law in August 2007.
Needless to say that did not sit well with Thaksin and he started a movement to reset the clock back to September 18, 2006 being the day before the coup that removed him from power. That involved having a pro-Thaksin government in power. The Red shirts were vast enough to carry significant political weight as the number of constituencies was enough to dominate Parliament. That resulted in the pro Thaksin People Power Party (PPP) getting elected.
The Red Shirt’s violent signature came early and they were not afraid to go and rough up people who did not see things their way. They were Thaksin’s answer to the Anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirts. The Red Shirts brand of democracy was not to argue about a political viewpoint, their brand of democracy was to attack people who had different viewpoints much the same as Thaksin does. Their first acts of violence were to attack competing politicians from other parties and physically chase them from Red Shirt areas only allowing their own propaganda and politicians in the area. Their behavior closely matched that of killer bees.
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