After a summer of repression, much of the fire of the red shirt protest movement in Thailand appears, on the surface, to have evaporated, though some red shirts have been holding symbolic protests every Sunday, and getting a small crowd. The fact that the ruling Democrat Party won a recent by-election and local elections in Bangkok have been touted by much of the domestic press in Thailand as evidence that the Democrats, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have won the public trust once again. Strong recent economic growth reports have added to the improved mood in Bangkok.
But this positive narrative is patently false. The Democrats already were strong in Bangkok – remember, the middle class supports the Democrats in Thailand, and the middle class lives in Bangkok – so it was hardly surprising that the Democrats took the Bangkok elections and a by-election for parliament in Bangkok. And in that by-election, the candidate of the red shirts’ party, who was in jail on charges related to the protest, still only lost by a relatively narrow margin. That’s right – he was in jail during the campaign – that kind of makes it tough to promote his positions to the electorate.