Red and yellow songs: A historical analysis of the use of music by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Thailand

James Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The increase in social protests in Thailand since 2005 has been marked by a dramatic rise in the use of music for protest. This article examines the use of music by the yellow and red shirts, and contextualizes the PAD and UDD within the history of two similarly named but very different genres of Thai song: phleng chiwit [life songs] and phleng phuea chiwit [songs for life]. Phleng chiwit was part of a flowering of satirical art forms during Field Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkhram's second term as Prime Minister (194857) before censorship forced many songwriters to change to the new commercial genre of lukthung [Thai country song]. Phleng phuea chiwit was the preferred music of leftist students in the pro- democracy movement of the 1970s. However, the rehabilitation of phleng phuea chiwit as the official Thai protest genre has disguised the role that lukthung played during the armed struggle of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT). The article examines the use of satirical songs and lukthung during Thailand's most recent political struggle, from 2005 to the present. It appears that red-shirt protestors (the UDD) have accessed a wide range of memories, including the most powerful counter-hegemonic traditions, whereas their yellow-shirt opponents (the PAD) have drawn on a much narrower selection of hegemonic cultural memories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-494
Number of pages38
JournalSouth East Asia Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Lukthung
  • PAD
  • Phleng chiwit
  • Phleng phuea chiwit
  • UDD
  • Yellow and red shirts

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