Monday, 17 May 2010

Women in protest

Day after day, as discourses, threats, rumors, and promises run around almost un-listened to and the vision of people cooking sticky rice protected by the shadow of a multi-millions shopping mall becomes normality, life at the protest goes on as usual. New rounds of people from Isaan keep arriving to refurnish the outgoing flow of the last days, making the area a bit more crowded than lately. More than a month has gone by and there seems not to be any visible resolution. The government will probably not allow the protesters to obtain dissolution, scared of the precedent that would be set, and the red shirts will not lose face and just leave. This realization has been spreading lately, reviving the negotiation among the two sides.

The back stage has been also transformed, to accommodate this new phase. Chairs have been moved around creating a small conference area, with a large table covered by white cloth over a backdrop with black and white pictures of the people who died on the 10th and a huge banner: “dissolution” topped by “so that our friends didn’t die for nothing”. In the last days many of the interventions, especially the more mass media oriented, have been delivered by the whole group of leaders and broadcasted from here, instead of from the stage, changing the incendiary rhetoric and posture on stage to a more “civilized” and calm poetics, with the leader talking calmly sitting at the table. In a time of resuscitated negotiation, sitting on a table becomes a physical and metaphorical strategy.

Around this new space, leaders and their guards sit around, chatting and queuing on small plastic chairs underneath the stage before stepping up. The international spokesman is sitting in front of cameras pointing to him, with no operator behind. When he finish he proudly shows the system of broadcasting by which any intervention posted real time on the UDD Thailand facebook page, to bypass state censorship to the red TV and radio channels. As usual the spokesman makes introductions and then walks away. Few minutes after, I find myself working as a translator for a Spanish documentary-maker who is exploring the roles of women activism in the red shirt movement.

We jump over the metal fence that divide the stage area with the crowd sitting in front, mostly composed of women, and sit there for a while interviewing three middle age women. The three women scream at us to pass the noises coming from the stage as they crowd around the camera, taking turns for the spot light. All of them are actually living in Bangkok, even if were born outside the city. One of them is the wife of a doctor who, has she says, support the cause but does not have time to come to Ratchaprasong. “The involvement of women in the red shirts” she says surrounded by a sea of ladies “is first an answer to practical problem. As our husbands have a fix job they have no time to come here, so we come to support the red shirts for all of our families.” She looks around to the other two women confirming with their head and giggling among them. “Women are better at dyeing” add half-jokingly one of them, as she stares at me. “It is the same among red and yellow” she picks up the other “as women we know what the problems are. We see our kids’ daily life, the house, the education. As our husband go to work and come back home to drink we see every day the inequality of this country.”

As we discuss for a bit, more people around get into the conversation, if just for a moment. As we talk fruits, booklets, and water was constantly distributed from the lower stage to the people in front. Among us pieces of paper go around as everybody writes their name and phone number. Another person adds to the group, a middle age lady-boy working in an office. The group is now composed by four women: the lady-boy, a talkative lady with short black hair and thick eyebrows, a silent but expressive darker woman, whose face and restless eyes give to intend the complexity of unspoken agreements that filtrated their discourses and the doctor’s wife, who keeps showing us her ID from the We love Udon group, hanging from her neck. We keep talking for a while. Behind us a woman sit on a small chair with a huge hat shaped as a copy of Democracy monument. Around the crowd grows as the sun goes down, ready for another evening of political discussions and songs. I appreciate their resilience but I do not think I can stand another night of the same discourses.

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