April 14, 2009
Written by C.N.
When it comes to political news back in Asia, most of the mainstream media’s attention is directed at the “usual suspects” — China, India, Japan, and North Korea. However, Thailand is in the midst of plenty of political turmoil recently. For those who want some background information on the current protests taking place in Thailand, Andrew Lam at New America Media offers a very nice and succinct summary:
According to Thai police, up to 40,000 anti-government “red-shirt” protesters have scattered around the Thai capital, blocking roadways and entrances to upscale shopping malls. A few days earlier, in the nearby beach town of Pattaya, they managed to scare away leaders attending the Asian economic summit and attack Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s own convoy, causing injuries to several members. The prime minister barely got away. His declaration of a state of emergency was only met with more riots by the red shirts. They only began to break up when thousands of soldiers moved in.
Many of these red shirt protesters were trucked in from rural areas. Fierce supporters of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawsastra, who was ousted in 2006 when he was traveling abroad, and charged with corruption in absentia, the protesters are now threatening to bring down the economy as well. Foreign investors are driven away by the unrest and tourism, already suffering from Thailand’s instability, is predicted to sink even further.
Yet, less than six months ago, it was the “yellow shirts” who owned the streets. Members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), they wore yellow to honor Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Representing a more urban population – in many ways the educated and bourgeois class — the yellow shirts blocked the airport for days and stranded nearly 250,000 tourists.
The yellow shirts were incensed when a pro-Thaksin prime minister was popularly elected into office when the general election was held in December 2007. In effect, the yellow shirts disagreed with the election, claiming fraud. The constitutional court, under pressure to get the country moving again, agreed with them and disqualified the pro-Thaksin prime minister.
The trouble was that there was no clear evidence of fraud. In fact, Thaksin himself won the election fair and square before he was ousted by the military three years ago, with tacit support from the king. Many observers predict that he would win again were he to return and run in a fair election. A populist, the former prime minister made great strides among the rural population, provided education and jobs, and brought many out of dire poverty. Charges of corruption aside, his growing base in the countryside rivals that of the affection the people have for their king.
This leads to the issue of civil war, or something close to it.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Background and Summary of Thailand Protests" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2009/04/background-summary-thailand-protests/> ().
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