I've spent a reasonable amount of time in rural Thailand, though more in the centre than in the nort or in Isaan, and I also love Thai people. I speak Thai, I love the food, and I love the Thai approach to life.
I also feel for the poor and disempowered in Thai society.
I was in Udon Thani recently, where I hung out with some girls, some of whom were mixed Thai-Farang who ran a bar in town.
One of the ladies I took out for a night on the town was a new arrival from Chaiyaphum. She was older, maybe in her late thirties, and not very pretty at all, but she was sweet. She spoke hardly any English, but she was keen to chat when she realized I speak Thai. To cut a long story short, she was there to sell her body because she couldn't make a decent living and offer her kids a future as a fruit seller.
I spoke to Bangkok taxi drivers from Isaan during my last trip too. Most Isaan taxi drivers send their money back home and visit their families only once in a while, because there is no work for them at home.
Same with those in menial jobs, many of whom come from the poorer parts of the country.
The way I see it, the blame for this latest mess lies firmly with Thailand's scumbag rich, on both sides.
Thaksin, being a shrewd businessman saw the generations of neglect of Thailand's poor by government after government, as a niche he could use to enrich himself.
He never gave a rat's arse about the poor. Anyone who thinks he did is a moron.
The poor were impatient, and when the Red propaganda machine, backed by Thaksin's ill-gotten gains, swung into motion, they went along with it.
At the hight of the protests, Thailand's entrenched, pro-monarchist elite was faced with a choice: civil strife or social justice. Being the selfish b@stards that they are, they chose civil strife (though it is hard to see what choice they had once the roadmap was rejected).
So, the way I see it, this entire conflict was not really a class conflict, it was a conflict between two groups of rich, corrupt, mafia scumbags, one of which happened to brainwash and fool the rural poor into giving them their backing.
Now look what has happened. The cause of Thailand's rural poor has been forever tarnished, since they aligned themselves with Thaksin and his mob.
Now the rural poor are seen by many as violent savages.
They'll never get justice now. And they have the likes of Thaksin and the Red Shirt leaders to blame for this.
The Red Shirt leaders threw in their lot with Thaksin because they believed THEY'D benefit in the end.
This whole mess is a tragedy for Thailand's rural and urban poor.
I wish they had people who were better able to advise them/support them and speak on their behalf.
Sadly, this was not the case, and they've done themselves enough damage to set their cause back another generation.