Meet James, a fictitious name for one brain behind the network of well-educated red-shirts. When The Nation met James yesterday, this middle-aged Thai who spent much of his adult life in the US didn't even bother wearing red. He argued that his network was made up of many cells and at least 400 well-educated people who are fairly well off and willing to fight for democracy.
"We're not snobbish: we do reach out to the provincial people and maintain a network in Chiang Mai, Phetchabun, Udon [Thani], Korat and Phuket," he said.
James is a former international media analyst and boasted of knowing people high up in the US, Australia and even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva himself. He's also in charge of the red-shirts' "external relations" with the rest of the world.
While some DAAD leaders such as Weng Tojirakarn have said the group may try to seize Government House next week and oust the Abhisit administration as soon as possible, James gave a different impression as he sipped an Americano coffee at a Bangkok cafe.
"In this war," he said, "we're in no hurry. We will quietly stalk them. No [violent] confrontation whatsoever."
James said he didn't consider yellow-shirt supporters of the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) his enemies. In fact he claimed to have converted some yellow-shirt protesters into reds after what he claimed was a realisation by some of these former yellow-shirts that they had been "misinformed" by PAD news outlets. He said he had managed to "neutralise" his own family members, who supported the Democrat Party for three decades.
'ARMY HAS MARKED ME'
Utilising the Internet to keep contacts and expand his network and forward news contrary to what the current government and PAD may claim is the truth, James said he had, however, been noticed. "The Army has marked me, but nevertheless we do have soldiers on our side."
James said he took orders from nobody, not even from Thaksin, and that his group's goal was to end direct and indirect interference by the military and the elite in the country's fragile democratic system.
"But I won't destroy the country. We don't see this government as legitimate, however. We want to see the PAD put through due process of law [for the airport seizures]. Our network is formidable. It's spontaneous, with no single command."
Noi, in her mid-30s, is another well-educated red-shirt. She holds a PhD from an Ivy League university and works at a government ministry. She also asked for her identity not to be revealed but often wears red even to work. Noi said the red-shirt movement had evolved and was ready to morph beyond the mere issue of supporting Thaksin into one that would bring greater participation from the masses in the democratic system. She said she knew about 100 people with similar backgrounds in the movement, James included. The view that the red-shirts were all about Thaksin was "outdated", Noi insisted.
"Even if Thaksin was dead and gone the struggle would continue. And ordinary [red-shirt] folks also tell me the same. We do not fight for a particular person," she claimed. "If Thaksin joined the conservative elite one day, we wouldn't be on his side."
Noi, who gravitated towards the group not long after the 2006 coup which ousted Thaksin, said the group was willing to arrange for some academics to exchange views with lesser-educated red-shirt members. But she said her personal experience was that such red-shirt people, though not formally educated at university level, were otherwise very worldly and politically conscious.
She said these people hoped that the movement would help bring about popular democracy one day.
But when asked how the Abhisit administration might eventually be ousted, she said it was uncertain, though she had never been against the Democrats when Chuan Leekpai came to power a decade ago because the military and elite had not blatantly interfered, unlike recently. "The feudal system is very old and entrenched. Calling for democracy won't make it materialise within a week or two."