Thailand’s Reds and Yellows by Vinai Dithajohn

1-10 November 2019

Introduction: This photo essay tells the story of the Thai political crisis from 2005 to 2014, a conflict between 2 political groups the red-shirts and the yellow-shirts. The red-shirts began ass supported by deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted by a military coup in September 2006. Thaksin was very popular among the rural farmers and urban working class because he initiated policies that benefited them, such as funding for health-care and education.

In 2005, A citizens’ movement against Thaksin, called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or “Yellow Shirts” its membership consisted mainly of ultra-royalist middle-class and working-class Bangkok residents and anti-Thaksin Southerners, supported by some factions of the Thai Army, some leaders of Democrat Party, and the members of the state-enterprise labor unions. The yellow-shirts launched mass protests against the government of Thaksin, accusing him of corruption, insulting the monarchy.

Meanwhile, the group of supporters of Thaksin came out to show the power and pro-democracy. There was unrest in Bangkok, the Thai military supported the yellow-shirts secretly behind and then making the coup on 19 September 2006.

There were many anti-coup groups formed following the coup on 19 September 2006, the famous group is the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or the red-shirts formed to protest the coup and military government, the movement has since expanded to included various groups with diverse political priorities. Its members range from Left-wing and/or liberal activists and academics to a large number of Thaksin’s rural and working-class supporters.

The red-shirts were made several times protesting in Bangkok. the highlight was on 2010 the violence shocked the city – but the red-shirts consolidated their forces in one camp, closing down the city’s commercial heart for several more weeks until on 19 May 2010 armed government troops moved into the red-shirt camp, smashing through barricades. By the end of the day, the camp had been cleared, several of the group’s leaders arrested and dozens of people, including protesters and soldiers, killed resulted 1,283 people were injured and 94 people died.

After that, there have been no rallies from various political groups for a while until in 2013 a new round of political crisis occurred. There are political groups wishing to eliminate the influence of Thaksin, who is fleeing abroad. A younger sister named Yingluck Shinawatra being elected Prime Minister in 2011.
In August 2013, there was a long-standing rebellion in Bangkok, with soldiers backing. Until the incident occurred and led to the coup on May 22, 2014.

About The Artist: Vinai Dithajohn

Vinai Dithajohn is a Bangkok-based photojournalist covering news and documentary stories in Thailand and Southeast Asia for the past ten years. He is a former contributor to the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), his work has been published in Time Magazine, the International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, GQ Magazine Thailand and National Geographic Magazine Netherlands and Thailand. 

Vinai is a two-time award winner in the FCCT (The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand) Regional Photo Contest, placing second for Feature Photo in 2008 and winning Photo of the Year Award in 2007.

In 2002 his photo essay on Sea gypsies was awarded first prize National Geographic Thailand photo contest. Self-thought and then studied more with internationally acclaimed photographers James Nachtwey and David Alan Harvey in their 2007 Bangkok workshop and at a World Press photojournalist workshop held in Jakarta on 2002.

Since 2004, Vinai has worked throughout the region on assignments with Greenpeace Southeast Asia covering climate change, water pollution and documenting the crew of the Rainbow Warrior II flagship during an anti-coal campaign at the Philippines and Thailand in 2008. He has also taught photography to children in the InSIGHT Out! project in the tsunami-affected area of Thailand.