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Tea Party couldlearn lessonfrom Thailand

Violence continues to erupt in Thailand as security forces fired on anti-government protesters outside the capital Wednesday.

The clash is one of a series of confrontations that stem from anti-government sentiment after a bloodless coup in 2006. Billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra was democratically elected prime minister in 2005, but the social elite ousted and eventually replaced him.

That sparked chaos and prompted outrage by activist group Red Shirts. The latest wave of violence exploded April 7, when they took over parliament. A riot followed three days later, leaving many Thais dead. This seven-week crisis killed 27 Thais and wounded nearly 1,000 so far.

“Our side is running everything in order to create peace, but the government is trying to push war. And you know if (they) push war, civil war is coming,” Red Shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn said to The Associated Press.

The Red Shirt movement’s aim may be questionable, but its sincerity is clear. And these protests could teach the American Tea Party movement a lesson.

Tea Party attendees claim to be against bailouts, health reform and big government, but many don’t know much about these topics when asked.

“I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security,” 62-year-old Tea Party protester Jodine White said to the New York Times. “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Not knowing much about one’s protest topic is evidence of insincerity, as are claims that the Tea Party is merely a racist protest against President Barack Obama.

When about 65,000 Red Shirts gathered March 14 for the largest protest in Thai history, the pro-government media attempted to misinform the public by reporting that only 25,000 attended, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

That contrasts with the 2009 Tea Party March on Washington, in which protesters distorted figures to the media by claiming that more than 1 million attended, according to ABC News.

The Tea Party trivializes political protest. People have a right to use their freedom of expression, but because these rights are precious, abusing them should be discouraged.

Protesters who have to lie about their success lack integrity. Thailand’s Red Shirts have many ethical problems, but at least their fundamental cause is consistent and straightforward.

Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.