Foreigners at the Red Shirt Protest

The Nation ran an article today asking a few (western) foreigners participating in the red shirt protests.

An American appeared on the stage yesterday, despite the government's enforcement of the emergency decree. (...)

While on stage, he addressed the crowd in English, saying that the United States took a long time to establish democracy. "What you're doing is amazing and I hope you achieve it," he said.

"This is becoming a people's movement. The country has been divided in the last month and I am worried about the direction it is heading in," said Frank Klose, a German who has been living in Thailand for the past 20 years.

Klose, a resident of Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani, added that it was his third time at the protests and he was hoping a dissolution of Parliament would help resolve the current chasm.

However, he admitted he was not too knowledgeable about Thai politics, and mainly came in support of his Thai wife, who is a strong activist.

A desire to see the dissolution of Parliament was shared by other foreigners present. (...)

"I am here to support freedom of speech, freedom of protest and corruption free elections. We should have a democracy without interference like in the US," added the dual American and Canadian citizen, who has been living in Bangkok for 15 years and asked to remain anonymous.

"Foreigners joining the rally", by PierLuc Gagnon, The Nation, April 9, 2010

Least to say that these soundbites do in no way represent the whole movement and it is probably impossible to pick out all westerners in the crowd. But I can see the red shirts trying to gain some credibility endorsement by the mere presence of western foreigners at the rally site (like with everything gains some prestige with a token farang standing at hand, right?) - it can't hurt.

In comparison The Irrawaddy has written back in early March that the government has warned Thai employers to bring migrant workers to the red shirt protest.

Thailand's Ministry of Labor warned Thai employers not to bring any migrant workers to join ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's supporters, who are scheduled to launch a major anti-government protest in Bangkok this weekend.

The warning was made by Phaitoon Kaewthong, Thailand's minister of labor, after reports circulated suggesting that Thaksin supporters known as Redshirts will bring laborers including foreign migrant workers to join the Redshirt protest, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Labor on Monday.

In a written statement sent to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Andy Hall, director of the Bangkok-based Human Rights and Development Foundation's migrant justice program said: “If migrants were to attend this red-shirt rally, it would surely be because they were forced to attend by their employers, as we saw with the previous red and yellow shirt rallies in Thailand.”

“If it is not enough to exploit migrants economically and physically, now they are being exploited politically by both sides of the political conflict,” said Hall.

"No Migrants at Redshirt Rally", by Saw Yan Naing, The Irrawaddy, March 8, 2010

Bangkok Pundit has blogged about this issue as well, where migrant workers and their Thai employers were threatened with hefty fines, and already back in November 2009, citing deputy prime minister Suthep Thuagsuban's rationale on why foreigners should not protest with the red shirts.

Well, so says Deputy Prime Minister Suthep in an interview with Matichon which BP has summarized below:

Suthep stated that there were reports of others being brought in to protest against Abhisit on his trip to Chiang Mai on November 28. Suthep warns the protest letters not to allow others who are not Thais to protest because it is not possible to communicate with such people* (อย่าปล่อยให้กลุ่มผู้ชุมนุมที่ไม่ใช่คนไทยมาร่วมชุมนุม เพราะพูดกันไม่รู้เรื่อง) and they cannot be controlled (และไม่สามารถควบคุมได้). They may also create problems (คนพวกนี้อาจจะเข้ามาสร้างปัญหา).

Suthep also wanted to pass a message onto non-Thais that peaceful protests under the constitution was limited to Thais only. Therefore, if a foreigner protests, they have broken the law.

*edited this slightly.

"Non-Thais to protest with the reds", Bangkok Pundit, November 23, 2009

Suthep definitely had Burmese, Lao, Cambodian or any other Asian migrant workers in mind when telling foreigners not to meddle with Thai politics (since we can take care of ourselves very well, right?). So what about the farang red shirts? Is it also hard to communicate with them? And do these regulations apply to them and legal actions will be taken against them as well?

Further reading: