The Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts were (and still are) in a tug-of-war, attempting to define what a defines a democratic state and a state's legitimacy in the eyes of its people. In late March 2010, while travelling through Thailand, Heather and I made time to visit the protests that were strangling the country.
In September of 2006, in a coup d'état, a group of military leaders overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra (who enjoyed the support of Red Shirts) and in doing so was successful in "abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king's Privy Counselors... as the Prime Minister (ref.)." The overthrow was an effort to achieve a "brief intervention in order to restore peace, unity, and justice in the country." They claimed that "rampant corruption, malfeasance and widespread nepotism" had eroded legitimacy (ironic, isn't it?). In the following years, the junta called new elections and political control was assumed by the People's Power Party (PPP) in defeating The Democratic Party.
The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as Red Shirts, are composed of both rural and urban supporters. My understanding is that the Red Shirt campaign is comprised of what could be known as "the working class of Thailand."
To sum up the situation (thank you, Wikipedia):
Our experience of the protests were limited because Heather and I were on vacation with a group of friends. Nevertheless, I wanted to learn more about the protests and who was involved. I asked one of our taxi drivers, "what is going on in the city? Protests?" He responded, although his english was rough, "Yes, protests. Tuk tuk, farmers, poor." It was only after our vacation that I learned of the sheer scale and intensity of the protests. At the time, I felt as though it was one of those times that I wish I were a foreign correspondent for an international news agency covering breaking news but alas I was on vacation and kept my journalistic tendencies to a minimum.The UDD claims that Abhisit Vejjajiva's government took power 'illegitimately', backed by the Thai Army and the judiciary. It calls for the Thai Parliament to be dissolved so that a general re-election can be held. They accuse the country's elite — the military, judiciary, certain members of the Privy Council, and other unelected officials — of undermining democracy by interfering in politics.
Update: Thai protest leaders warn of more trouble, Thai Divisions Shift to Voting Booth, 2,000 police deployed for by-election
Our photos from March 2010 (click here to see photos):