Time: “How Not to Make a Political Fashion Statement in Bangkok”
Last year, a swarm of yellow-clad demonstrators massed in Bangkok, taking over the international airport and virtually paralyzing the Thai capital for a week. Today, the color of protest is red. As bigwigs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began gathering at a seaside resort near Bangkok on Feb. 26 for an annual summit, thousands of anti-government protesters wearing crimson shirts congregated at the Thai Prime Minister’s office, demanding that Abhisit Vejjajiva hold elections soon. Thursday marked their third day of protest, and the red-hued demonstrators vowed not to cease until their demands for fresh polls were met.
This week’s new spate of color-coded dissent underlines not only the political instability that has marked Thai politics for several years now but also the tricky task of what to wear in Bangkok.
After a new administration aligned with the yellow-wearing royalists came to power in December, the new opposition began staging its crimson protests. Local pundits kid that P.M. Abhisit is being deluged by a Red Sea. The joke among journalists who try to maintain their reportorial objectivity is that orange, a mix of yellow and red, may be the best color to wear when reporting on Thai politics.
The hijacking of red and yellow by political groups has forced some Thais to give up wearing both colors, lest they be erroneously placed in one of the two political camps. The number of people who would normally wear yellow on Mondays to honor the King has dropped considerably, not because they respect the monarch any less, but because they don’t want to be associated with the PAD. Likewise, soccer-mad Thais who would usually wear red Arsenal or Manchester United jerseys have been forced to think twice about supporting their favorite sports team.