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. According to COUNTRYAAH, 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 injured.
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.