This research paper explores how inequality can be politicized in social mobilization for structural change. The case of urban protests in Bangkok involving two main groups, the Yellow Shirt and the Red Shirt during 2006-2010 is examined, with a focus on the discourse how the Yellow and the Red Shirt socially constructs issues of “inequality” in an attempt to mobilize a broad base of support that connects rural people with those living and working in the metropolitan areas. The paper situates the main actors in the protest, showing how the Red Shirt leaders, who are political elites themselves, have manage to create unity by bringing up many issues related to inequality and their attack on the political agenda of their opponent. In doing so how they could attract the support of many individuals and groups who took part in the protest. Using field research data involving six people from different backgrounds, the paper shows how those who took part in the protest perceived themselves as ‘poor’ and contrast these perceptions with the normative definitions of poverty and exclusion. The perception of Red shirt supporters in the areas selected by this study seems to reflect the same direction of the agitation by the protest leaders and the Red shirt supported media. During the time of the protest the Red Shirts widely use the feudalist term such as “Prai” or “serf”, to identify themselves and to differentiate themselves from their opponents, the Yellow shirts whom they referred to as the ‘aristocrats’ or ‘ammart’. This construction of opposing positions also has a clear cut distinction between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in terms of access to power in decision-making rather than poverty and inequality per se. The emerging picture suggests that poverty became an identity of the Red shirt protesters during their actions, despite the fact that the leaders did not bring many agendas directly related to poverty reduction. The role of Thaksin Shinawatra became more important at this stage as a symbol of “inequality revolution” since his populist policy had major positive impact in inequality alleviation, which linked directly to democracy. In conclusion, the vision of a society advocated by the Red shirts seems to depict one in which feudal forms of power and distinction should not prevail. ‘Inequality’ and ‘poverty’ have been politicized to fuel movements that aspire for democratic rule with full inclusion in decision-making without the exclusionary practices of the aristocracy.

Additional Metadata
Keywords inequality, politics, movement mobilization, conflict, Thailand
Thesis Advisor Fischer , Andrew M.
Persistent URL
Series Poverty Studies and Policy Analysis (POV)
Chidchon C. (2012, December 14). Inequality, politicized discourse, and political movement. Case study: Thailand political unrest in 2006-2010. Poverty Studies and Policy Analysis (POV). Retrieved from