22 April 2014
To understand this dispatch in context, please read the previous dispatch:
PAD and UDD crowds are easy to spot: PAD = Yellow Shirts. UDD = Red Shirts.
Yellow is the King’s color. PAD is strongly pro-Monarchy. UDD leadership is sharply anti-Monarchy, though many individual Red Shirts do love the Monarchy.
Again, Yellow Shirt and Red Shirt gatherings are easy to spot: large numbers of people wear Yellow or Red shirts. It can be that simple.
PDRC typically wear no particular color. They do carry whistles, and they carry a sea of Thai flags. The PAD Yellow Shirts also carried Thai flags, but fewer flags than PDRC members carry. Red Shirts carry few Thai flags. They often carry many red flags.
On flags, images, and organization:
1) PAD Yellow Shirts carry images of the Royal Family, and some national flags. PAD is highly organized.
2) Whistleblowers carry images of the Royal Family, and national flags. The amalgam of groups that create Whistleblowers is self-organizing down to their own levels. These groups include PDRC, KPT, Dhamma Army, Buddha Issara, and many dozens more. They form the meta-organization that is the Whistleblowers.
By saying “many dozens more,” this is a minimum. Before one march, the PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan told me that about 73 organizations declared that they would join PDRC. Akanat’s words were redeemed when throughout the day groups with various sorts of dress and banners joined the main body. They were too numerous to catalogue in such a short time.
A reality is that there might be hundreds of groups: many do not come to Bangkok to protest. They support Whistleblowers -- often under the banner “PDRC” -- from their home provinces, and from many countries around the world. There is PDRC Norway, PDRC USA, Italy, Australia, Angola, and many more.
Some supporters fly into Bangkok from around the world, while others support financially from their present countries. They seek to inform politicians in the many countries about their goals. A primary goal of Whistleblowers is to unseat the Thaksin patronage network.
Whistleblowers form a massive meta-organization that nobody has a firm handle on. It is constantly evolving and changing.
3) PDRC Whistleblowers carry images of the Royal Family, and their leader Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, and massive numbers of national flags. PDRC is highly organized. PDRC is the nucleus of the Whistleblowers.
4) UDD Reds carry few national flags, and few photos of King Bhumibol. They carry images of Yingluck and Thaksin, and signs depicting slogans created by Thaksin's public relations apparatus. "Respect my Vote" is a common UDD slogan.
5) Rice farmers carry few flags and few images of anyone, though many support the Royal Family. Rice farmers came to Bangkok for their money, not for idealism or reform. Their worldview revolves around rain, seeds, and rice prices. They have difficulty organizing groups of more than about 200 (by my estimation). At times when I have been with thousands of farmers at once, the large groups formed because many small groups came together. Again, a meta-organization of farmers congeals, which recursively folds into the meta-Whistleblowers.
There is no “Suthep," among farmers, no grand leader. Their leaders typically are village level, or provincial level. Farmers are historically led by Puea Thai or Red Shirt organizers. That so many are folding in with Whistleblowers is significant.
The meta-organization of farmers is more like a starfish march, because without Whistleblower organization and financial support and logistics sustainment, farmers would not be able to maintain their presence in Bangkok.
Much of this outside help comes from PDRC, Buddha Issara’s people, KPT to some degree, and from random volunteers. Dhamma Army is supportive. Smaller organizations also support farmers – I have talked with members of many smaller groups in their camp. Often they are from universities.
Again, without Whistleblower support, farmer protests would dwindle due to lack of organizational skills and funding. Those farmers who historically supported the Reds and Puea Thai were paid for their participation, though it must be emphasized that they have been heavily propagandized, and most are -- or were -- convinced that Thaksin is the best thing that ever happened to Thailand. I have spoken with well over a hundred rice farmers who no longer support PTP, UDD, or Thaksin, but they stop short of supporting the Democrat Party.
Farmers are day laborers, they work every day in order to eat. So taking them from their farms to protest in Bangkok requires funding, organization, transportation, logistics. Under UDD patronage, farmers must be paid to protest, but these days with Whistleblowers they only need organization. Their financial plight provides the rest of the incentive.
It is important to note that Whistleblowers did not reach out to recruit farmers. The farmers came spontaneously due to the rice scheme debacle, and then Whistleblowers supported farmers, and they joined forces. While PTP and UDD recruit, bait and cajole farmers, the Whistleblowers basically said, “Welcome to the party. Here is a free tent and free kitchen.” And so then many farmers began wearing whistles.
The Red mobs that were mobilized in the past were expensive, coordinated by a Puea Thai and Red Shirt political machine that is organized down to the village level. The same political machine that pays villagers for their votes, and has, for several years, also paid them to participate in protests in Bangkok.
Absent funding, farmers are stuck in their villages. In other words, the large farmer meta-organization is an external construct, not organic from the farmers. Many farmers told me that they would not vote for Puea Thai again. Farmers are angry about the corrupt government rice scheme that bankrupted them.
The regional mafia and political party Bumjaithai has displaced the Reds in many villages, but again nearly all farmers stopped short of saying that they would ever vote for Democrats. Farmers feel no loyalty to the Democrat Party.
Farmers historically are aligned with Puea Thai, or with its predecessor political parties led by Thaksin. Their support is predicated on payment, though more than a decade of systematic indoctrination now has most of them readily regurgitating stock Red slogans and ideas, as well.
Again, the largest group under the Whistleblower umbrella is PDRC, led by Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban. PDRC is the nucleus of the Whistleblowers, and Mr. Suthep is the strong force that binds the nucleus of PDRC.
Under Mr. Suthep, PDRC is predominately peaceful. One of the great untold stories of this uprising is that it must be one of the largest peaceful uprisings that the world has ever seen, yet it has been poorly covered by mainstream media. The lack of violence from millions of Whistleblowers is one probable explanation.
There have been a few violent incidents that began with Whistleblowers, but given that millions of people support PDRC and have been protesting for the past six months, the incidents are scattered and rare. And in any case, when millions of people participate in anything, including daily life, some incidents will occur as white noise, or “level x.” I have not detected anything above the white noise level from Whistleblowers, other than from KPT, which will be covered in detail in a later dispatch.
No Whistleblowers have engaged in terrorism, to my knowledge. Critics of the Whistleblowers attempt to portray the PDRC as violent. Some observers claim that both Whistleblowers and Red Shirts are violent, in a fraudulent attempt to equalize the two organizations, whitewashing the Reds overt terrorism. The Reds literally will publish in advance their attacks, commit them, then celebrate even when children die. They then become angry when someone says they are violent. This organizational schizophrenia challenges explanation.
Journalists who try to equalize the sides, even under the guise of “balanced reporting,” are being intellectually dishonest, or are not doing the hard, expensive, dangerous work on the ground required to write accurate words. Practically no conventional media corporation would afford to dedicate high-end journalists full-time to a subject that garners little readership. We saw the same in Afghanistan. Quality costs money. The money is not there. So we get garbage in and garbage out.
Many traditional Red Shirts joined PDRC. People living in the Kingdom know that taxi drivers and motorbike drivers are predominately Red. I have been in taxis where a muttering driver pulls out a whistle and hangs it on his mirror as we passed through Whistleblower checkpoints, taking down the whistle as we depart. That driver is obviously not a Whistleblower supporter and will often say so.
Seeing a motorbike driver wearing a whistle, one might suspect that he is wearing it only to draw Whistleblower customers. In some cases this may be true. In other cases, motorbike drivers volunteered their services free of charge for Whistleblowers. They sometimes gave me free rides.
This sort of information can only be gleaned by being physically present. Very few Western journalists invested the time. I spent about four months, seven days a week, with various sorts of protestors starting in December 2013. Reading the news articles reveals that most of the international stories are meta-stories, created by reading the work of others, who are also writing meta-stories, which creates an echo-chamber of false information. If Western journalists were spending significant time out there, I would have seen them.
To state it a final time: “Whistleblower” is a blanket word for PDRC, KPT, Dhamma Army, Buddha Issara, and unnamed allies who wish to oust Prime Minister Yingluck and her family, the so-called "Thaksin regime," and to reform Thai democracy. Many farmers are allied with Whistleblowers, but farmers are not Whistleblowers per se, though some farmers now wear whistles.
(To be continued.)