Friday, January 31, 2014

Red Shirts versus Yellow Shirts in Thailand

What do Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine and Thailand have in common?  

Basically all four countries have (or had) leaders who were fairly elected, but who are (or were) highly unpopular to a large percentage of the population.  This large part of the population began protesting (going into the streets in large groups to express their anger) in an attempt to get rid of (eliminate) the person who was elected to be the leader.

In Egypt protests finally caused the arrest of the president, who is now on trial (it is being judged whether or not he committed crimes) and who may be executed (killed).  Protests in Turkey and Thailand have failed to remove the elected leaders while protests continue in Ukraine.

This seems to have become a trend in the world. (A trend is something that has become common or ordinary.)  Even if a person is elected president, if enough people disapprove of the job being done, they will take to the streets in violent protests to attempt to remove the elected leader.  Of course, this is an anti-democratic process. ('Anti' means 'against'.)

Here is an interesting article about what is happening in Thailand.  Basically people from the countryside outnumber people from Thai cities and, therefore, the elected leader of Thailand was chosen by the people of Thailand's rural areas.  People from the city disapprove of this current leader, who is the sister of an apparently very corrupt (dishonest) politician who had to flee (run away from) Thailand to avoid being thrown in jail (Thaksin Shinawatra).  The sister (Yingluck Shinawatra) seems to be following the orders of her brother, who now lives in Dubai.  Again, people from the countryside support this current leader (they are the 'red shirts') while people from the cities (they are the 'yellow shirts') would like a different leader.

Yellow shirts have been protesting this leader and demanding that she resign (quit). Yet, the red shirts are saying that until this leader's brother and she took power, the very poor people of the countryside were totally ignored by the government.  The yellow shirts claim that the Shinawatras are 'using' the people of the countryside by giving them free things to get their votes. According to the yellow shirts, by giving the rural people of Thailand free services, the Shinawatras stay in power to make more money for the Shinawatra family.

(Yingluck Shinawatra)

So this invites the question:  what should people do if they live in a democracy but feel that their elected leader is corrupt (dishonest)?  Should they engage in violent protests to overthrow the leader, even though the leader was elected?  What should they do? 

The 'red shirts' say that previous 'yellow shirt' leaders didn't do anything to help poor farmers or farm workers - so perhaps the 'yellow shirt' leaders caused this.  Perhaps if the yellow shirts made promises to the red shirts that the red shirts will still receive necessary services and help from the government in the future, then the yellow shirts could gain power again and there would be no more violence.

Here is an article about Thailand:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article about Thailand:

to get rid of - to eliminate

the elite - the very best, the most privileged, people who have had the most advantages in life - in this article 'elite' means people with money from the cities

vow - promise

to take to the barricades - a barricade is some structure meant as an obstacle to prevent people or cars from driving down the street; in protests barricades are usually established to stop the police or military from moving about freely.  So the supporters of the current leader of Thailand are promising to support her and to fight against the yellow shirts.

clad - if a person is clad in something, he/she is wearing something

a cliche - in this case: a common and kind of funny example of something

a revolutionary - someone who tries to change things that are wrong

an activist - someone who also tries to change something that is wrong

to topple - to overthrow, to get rid of (unlike what you would expect from an activist, he supports the government)

to man the barricades - to be there at the barricades; to 'man' something means to place people in positions to do something

to draw the poison from the protests - to make the protests harmless: the protesters were demanding that there should be new elections as soon as possible, so to stop the protests she decided to give the protesters what they have been demanding. By doing this, she is making the protesters harmless - they have nothing to protest any more because she is doing what they want.

an unarmed war - a war without weapons

a coup - when the military (army) takes over the government and appoints a leader

the abyss - this is, literally, a large whole; to say Thailand is heading for an abyss means that the country may experience a terrible situation, like someone falling into a hole that he cannot climb out of

orchestrating - organizing

a grenade - this is a little bomb you can easily throw

clashes - fights

commensed - began

the prelude - the part before the real beginning of something; most operas have 'preludes' - this is music before the opera starts

boycotting - refusing to participate in

poll - election, vote

lose by a large margin - they will lose by many many votes

bitterly - bitter is the opposite of sweet; if something is bitter it is unpleasant

fragile - weak

to pit against - if two groups are pitted against each other, they are rivals or competitors...they hate each other

metropolitan - people in the cities

populist polices - policies meant to help the poor farmers and farm workers

exile - when a person is kicked out of his/her country

corruption - dishonest behavior

charges - complaints, accusations

poverty - the state of being so poor that you cannot live up to acceptable standards

to line the pockets of - this means to put illegal money in the 'pockets' of others - to give people illegal money

revered monarch - very respected king

a siege mentality - a siege was when an army would surround a city and attack it in a war; a siege mentality is when a group decides that they are being attacked and they do everything they can to defend themselves from a 'siege': mentality means attitude or belief

faces the same fate - they military will try to remove her

intervention - interference or action meant to get in the middle of a situation and change it

to prompt - to cause

a mass uprising - the red shirts would all take action against the military at the same time

a guerrilla war - this is a war where little groups fight and then run away so that they can kill the larger enemy but not get killed themselves


What do you think?  The rural people of Thailand love this leader and believe she is helping them.  People in the cities are protesting to remove her.  Which side are you on?


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