Payap University presentation today on Thailand’s red shirts, the ‘urbanized villagers’
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Payap University presentation today on Thailand’s red shirts, the ‘urbanized villagers’

By Saksith Saiyasombut

Today at Payap University in Chiang Mai a good friend and a fellow student of mine will give a presentation about his ethnographic research on the red shirts. Here’s the blurb and their Facebook event page:

The Red Shirt Movement: Urbanized Villagers, Class War and Thaksin, the Democratic Gladiator

Wednesday, 16 May 2012, 5pm to 6pm

Pentecost Building, Room 317

Speaker: Fabian Drahmoune, Graduate Student, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg (Germany) and Research Fellow at the Southeast Asian Institute of Global Studies, Payap University

In May 2010 Thailand’s turbulent years of conflict accumulated into the bloody dispersal of protesters in Bangkok. The images of a burning city left a permanent mark on the public political consciousness. At the core of the crisis is a movement described as both the expression of a struggle between elites and a real social movement. The Red Shirts emerged through different stages and cycles of protest to become a new actor to reshape Thailand’s political landscape.

Based on ethnographic research in Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai provinces and on a review of the growing literature of the Red Shirt movement, this presentation examines the movement’s framing strategies and their resonance with rank and file participants. Against the movement’s genesis it is argued that part of its successful mobilization is based on the employment of three powerful frames (democracy, injustice and class conflict), an inclusive collective identity and Thaksin Shinawatra’s symbolic capital. Connecting it to the political and socio-economic transformations of Thailand’s countryside during the last decades, it will be shown how these mobilization efforts fell on fertile ground particularly among the rural population – the so-called “urbanized villagers.”

Note: This event will be conducted in English. 


To my knowledge, this is one of the first few ethnographic studies on the red shirt movements that are without a doubt an interesting socio-political subject. Another one that comes to my mind is Claudio Sopranzetti, currently a PhD candidate at Harvard University, who researched and blogged on the role of the motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok and eventually during the 2010 red shirt protests. This now has resulted in the book “Red Journeys” (read a review by Chris Baker here).

For those in Chiang Mai today, Fabian’s presentation is worth a listen!

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and on Facebook here.