Last week, I received a phone call from a friend of mine who is an ajarn at Chiang Mai University. “Send someone to the Convention Centre on Nimmanhaemin now! There is about to be a large anti-government protest of white V-for-Vendetta-mask-wearing ajarns,” she squealed with excitement. An hour later, our reporter called to say that there were about two dozen men and women wearing Guy Fawkes-inspired masks milling around carrying banners.
Ah, apathy, I thought. And, apathetic as I assumed the protesters had become, I decided to go to Rimping for my monthly shop.
Well, as you who read the local news (ahem, www.chiangmaicitynews.com, naturally) will know, there was nothing calm nor chilled about what happened next. Estimates vary that from 150-200 red shirts, loyal denizens of the infamous Chiang Mai Rak 51 group, soon decided to turn up to “monitor” the protest. I am sure you can guess what happened…loud speakers spewing abuse, scuffles, and an escalation into violence. The reds said that they were not going to tolerate a protest against a democratically elected government, and went on to claim that some of their Vendetta-faced foes came up and tried to take photographs of them, thereby showing them disrespect. This caused many of their members to get angry, and such insults led them to become violent…understandable, right? The masked brigade say that the reds started hurling abuse as well as skanky garbage, eggs and fireworks at them. A mini fisty-cuff ensued before police finally, and by all accounts reluctantly, stepped in to allow the now genuinely white-faced protesters to retreat into the security of a 7-Eleven.
It was a sad and frankly pathetic affair. The masked protesters, along with anyone harbouring the slightest bit of interest in local politics, knew damn well that the reds rule the roost in this city and the slightest dissention in Shinawatraland is going to bring down the wrath of Chiang Mai Rak 51. Twenty university lecturers wearing a mask of a man who tried to kill an English king four hundred years ago is not going to make waves, nor headlines, but thanks to the reds’ usual leave-brain-behind-and-charge reaction, the protesters garnered both sympathy and press (of which they received plenty, and quite rightly). Whether this group of raging reds genuinely do not understand that democracy doesn’t condone tyranny by the majority and allows for freedom of speech, or they are just a bunch of hooligans, who knows. But, they have yet again come out of this looking like idiots and thugs.
For a people who care so much about loss of face, we seem to have absolutely no sense of shame.
I feel like sending them a memo saying, “You won years ago! This is red land, be gracious for sense’s sake.”
Instead of being so concerned about their face and their honour, instead of being fearful of any disrespect shown towards their leaders, their cause or their colour, how about starting to feel a bit of shame for thoroughly embarrassing Chiang Mai – again – on the
Citylife this month:For the foreseeable future, this is a red city. But, maybe it is time for victory and compassion to come together because if the almighty red shirts keep being this sensitive about perceived slights and this shameless in their own behaviour, perhaps a few masked men and women quietly poking the giant will be able to slay Goliath after all.
Where do I start! Firstly, our Hilary Cadigan explored the mercurial world of the 20-something expats here in Chiang Mai. She then spent a day in the mountains hunting snakes – thankfully no mementoes were brought back to work. We also had fantastic interns this month offering a wide variety of articles ranging from a look into the sinister world of the ivory trade, to interviews with both a young expat filmmaker and a mature Thai writer, to a creepy sampling of some of the weirdest food you can eat here in Thailand.