Thailand. The protests against the resignation of Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 continued this year as
well, and increased dramatically. In mid-March, his red-clad
supporters, the "red shirts", began to rally again in
central Bangkok, demanding new elections to Parliament.
Thailand has a population of 69.43 million (2018). Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva refused to resign but
offered negotiations after a couple of weeks' upload.
However, none of the parties gave in to the talks and the
conflict intensified. The red shirts barricaded themselves
in the capital's commercial center, amidst luxury hotels and
department stores. The government announced a state of
emergency in most of the country after redshirts besieged
the parliament, whose members fled in panic.
When the military in mid-April tried to regain control of
central Bangkok, violent clashes erupted and many people
were killed. Now the army chief also demanded that the
parliament be dissolved, but Abhisit rejected all demands
for his resignation and re-election.
Until mid-May, Bangkok was in chaos, tourists were
protecting the city and Thailand's economy was hit hard.
Since the Red Shirts said no to the Prime Minister's offer
to hold new elections in November, Abhisit gave them a short
deadline in mid-May to leave the area besieged. The
following days, the army tore down the barricades and drove
away the protesters during a fierce confrontation that
demanded dozens of casualties. A total of at least 90 people
were killed during the two-month crisis and about 1,800 were
An attempt to distrust Abhisit in Parliament was voted
down by a good margin in early June. During the autumn, the
exception laws were gradually lifted in the quieter
provinces. In Bangkok and the surrounding areas, however,
the special laws were in effect until the end of the year.
Occasional explosions and demonstrations took place in
Bangkok during the fall.
Prime Minister Abhisit also had problems from elsewhere.
In the fall, the Constitutional Court held two lawsuits
against the Democratic Party, which he leads, for abusing
state grants and for receiving illegal gifts. In both cases,
however, the party was acquitted for legal reasons, which
astonished the opposition and protests.
Even the fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, who was granted
citizenship in Montenegro during the year, continued to
suffer adversities. In February, the Supreme Court decided
to seize the equivalent of about SEK 10 billion, or more
than half of his family's assets, which were declared to be
illegally earned during his time as prime minister. His
appeal of the decision was rejected in August.
After several weeks of demonstrations against the
government in which protesters demanded Thaksim's departure,
the prime minister in March 2006 declared the conflict to be
resolved by democratic means, and therefore postponed
elections in April. In late March, the opposition rejected a
proposal by the government to form a unifying government
after the election to resolve the political crisis.
The election was boycotted by the opposition parties,
declaring that the election made no sense, and it was
subsequently canceled by the Constitutional Court. The
opposition accused Thaksim of being intolerant and of
selling off the country's values for the benefit of his
own family and foreign investors. At the same time, the Army
General Staff criticized him for using the country's
soldiers to suppress Thailand's own Muslims. In the face of
mounting public protests against his government, the Prime
Minister declared at the beginning of September that there
was a military plot against him where he was to be killed
and a military coup was to take place.
While on September 19, Thaksim was in New York to speak
at the opening of the UN General Assembly, the military
conducted a coup - for the first time in 15 years. Bush, who
otherwise praised the United States' efforts for democracy,
failed to condemn the military coup, and merely expressed
regret. Since the Vietnam War, close cooperation has existed
between Thailand's military and the United States, and the
United States has probably directly welcomed the coup, or at
least known it. Thaksim was already a head of state
Washington had a slightly strained relationship with.
King Adulyadej gave his support to the coup and appointed
General Sondhi Boonyaratklin as leader of the government
junta, which was made up of Sondhi himself and 5 other
generals. While Thaksim was in exile in London, the junta
dissolved the parliament, declaring that it would appoint a
new prime minister within 3 weeks. It further stated that it
would draft a new constitution and transfer power to
civilians within 1 year.
The military government presented its new constitutional
proposal in April 2007 to be submitted for referendum at the
end of the year. It limited the prime minister's term to a
single term of 4 years and reduced the number of MPs. In
May, ex-Prime Minister Thaksim's Thai Rak Thai party was
banned. Many people from the party later in the year
participated in the formation of the Peoples Power Party
(PPP), which won the parliamentary elections in December,
gaining 199 of Parliament's 400 seats. In January 2008,
Samak Sundaravej was appointed Prime Minister. His
government, however, was uncertain. In June he just survived
a vote of no confidence and in July a number of political
scandals hit his party. In August, protests against his
government spiked as protesters occupied the square in front
of the government building, two ministries and a TV station.
In early September, Samak was assigned a constitutional
court and a few weeks later replaced by another PPP member,
Somchai Wongsawat. However, the protests continued and on
November 25, protesters occupied both Bangkok's
international airports. The government ordered the army to
remove the protesters, but it denied the army had a strained
relationship with both Thaksin and his successors. The
blockade continued, paralyzing the flow of tourists in and
out of Thailand. On December 2, a constitutional court
declared the PPP and two other parties unconstitutional and
dissolved them. The country was thus without a prime
minister. On December 15, the opposition's Abhisit Vejjajiva
was appointed as new prime minister. The protesters had long
since lifted the blockade of the airports after they
achieved their goal: to have the government removed from
power. However, instability in Thailand continued. The
parties that had the backing of a very large part of the
population, first TRT and since the PPP were dissolved, and
this large sector of the population - first and foremost the
peasants - was therefore without political representation.