The Thai Coup overthrowing Thaksin Shinawat, in 2006, was what triggered the series of unrest occuring in Thailand in the recent years. I never really paid attention then although i was alittle concerned given that I loved Thailand, its culture, and as a tourist destination.
However, recent years of unrest and especially what is occuring now has peaked my interest. Even the previous taking over of Bangkok's international airports only elicited a response at the craziness of the Thai protests but it didn't motivate me to read or investigate further into the causes or details of the protests, reasons as to why ppl were protesting or getting the color codes correct. However, the recent protest for the past weeks led me to want to understand what the Thais were all protesting about and why the protests seemed neverending.
This is what i found out and the following is my personal opinion of the whole issue (please note this is merely my own personal opinion, from a neighbouring countrie's citizen's perspective, so its going to be subjective, but at least its going to be more impartial given that I have nothing at stake or personal interests in the politics of thailand):
From what I gather, in a quick summary for those like me whom are confused as to the chain of events and the differing sides, here's a quick rundown:
In 2001 Thaksin got elected in democratic elections to become the Prime Minister of Thailand. He served out his term and was re-elected, the ONLY thai PM ever to have served out his full term and get re-elected again for a second term, indicating his immense popularity to the people of Thailand. However, in 2006, the military in a coup overthrew him and brought him into exile overseas. He is currently in Cambodia, serving as an executive policy adviser to the Cambodian govt and leads the opposition from there.
Thaksin was and is extremely popular with the rural poor of Thailand, especially in the populous but poor North-East region of Thailand called Isaan. In addition, he is also supported by a large margin by the urban poor and lower classes of Bangkok and other Thai cities as well.
He was however not very popular with the middle and upper classes of Bangkok residents as well as other middle-upper class elites of Thailand, whom accused him of gross corruption and mishandling and siphoning state funds and investment deals to benefit his and his relative's wealth. The current unrest started, CRUCIALLY, with the yellow-shirt protesters (hereafter 'yellows') whom started wearing yellow shirts and rallying to bring down Thaksin. In 2006, the army which has always had strong ties to the Thai monarchy and Bangkok upper class elites brought down Thaksin thru a coup. They then governed the country promising democratic elections later down the line. The Courts dissolved Thaksin's party, called the 'Thai Ruk Thai' party and banned over 100 politicians from Thaksin's camp from joining politics for 5 years. However, another new party was set up with former unbanned politicians and supporters of Thaksin to contest in the new elections to be held in late 2007. In the 2007 elections, Thaksin's new party won the elections once again by a significant margin, thus forming the new govt.
Importantly, this means that Thaksin's party had won democratic elections THREE times to become govt. As a side note, the military also unilaterally changed the 1997 Constitution of Thailand and came up with their own 2007 version, and with heavy propaganda and publicity, it was accepted in a referendum in 2007 as well. However, the yellows were obviously not satisfied with the democratic election results once again bringing Thaksin's camp back into power for the third time. So they protested once again sometime in 2008, even going as far as occupying government house, occupying Bangkok's two international airports, and demanding that the new govt be dissolved as well. Finally, a Constitutional Court ruling brought down the leader Samak, because of accepting fees for accepting a cooking show appearance. He was replaced by another person within the ruling party (which is pro-Thaksin just as a reminder). The Court once again brought him down on another apparent breach. This led the way for the second Thaksin party to be removed from power and for the current Thai party, the yellow Democrats Party, with Abhisek as Prime Minister, to come into power. This led to the rise of the red-shirt protesters (hereafter referred to as 'Reds) and they have been protesting ever since and currently are involved in anti-govt protests and want new elections called.
My Opinion & Analysis:
My first line would be to state where my position and sympathies lie with, despite not being Thai and having no vested interest in whom eventually governs the country.
I am a RED SUPPORTER. This means I support the current anti-govt protesters, whom are mainly the rural and urban lower to poor classes of Thailand. This is as the current Democratic Party, led by Abhisek is indeed undemocratic. My main contention is that the 2006 coup SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. Thailand has had many coups since 1932 and its laughable. I didn't know Thailand's democracy was such a weak one, and always looked up to them kinda when compared to Malaysia's democracy, but now after understanding Thailand's political history, I must say, Malaysia is much more stable, fair, and democratic when compared to Thailand (this is a comparison, Malaysia is nowhere near a 'real democracy', but in comparison to Thailand, at least there's been no military coups in Malaysia's history before and ppl don't get what they want just by rioting and toppling down govts).
Military coups occur so often in Thailand that one wonders why there are elections at all, it seems that whenever the military or Thailands' middle/upper class elites doesn't like somebody, they just need to get their 'well-connected' military in and topple the govt. This is what happened in 2006. Many analysts have said that Thaksin had become too popular by then. He was enormously popular with the Thai rural and urban poor population which, mind you, Thailand being still an overall third world country (despite its glitzy image of Bangkok, Pattaya, beach resorts,etc) means the majority of the population of Thailand. He enacted many populist and refreshing policies such as universal health care coverage for Thailands' millions of rural poor as well as economic benefits for Thai rural farmers. He poured in money into previously neglected areas of the rural provinces of Thailand which the elites (yellows) had not bothered to look into in decades past. Thaksin, also was said to be uncompromising and unwilling to follow the 'old elitist rules' whereby previous Prime Ministers had always been in close connection and deference to what the Thai Monarchy and Thai military wanted. He was seen as challenging the military/monarchy's status in Thai society given that no other Thai prime minister had been this popular as an individual previously and Thai's only had one idol, the Thai King and his monarchy.
By 2006, Thaksin was seen by many elite/military quarters as also challenging the status of the monarchy by becoming a Thai idol as well. Thus, he was removed undemocratically, and the military came up with its own draft Constitution which is ridiculous. They say its to curb previous corruption loopholes,etc which is PURE CRAP cos you cannot come into power undemocratically and now want to change the 'game rules'. Furthermore, it was the yellows whom started this chaos by bombarding the govt house back in 2008 and the airports and now, i hear that these very ppl are calling the reds (whom merely copied their tactics and even the very concept of color coded division started with the yellows!) terrorists and I saw in one interview, a yellow even said 'it was the first time in my life that 'i've seen this happen (refering to red taking over of Bkk's commercial district) and this is my first time being ashamed of Thailand on the world stage'. What the HELL?!!! These yellows are TRULY SHAMELESS, i tell you...the first time you're ashamed of Thailand and the first time this has happened?! I was feeling ashamed of Thailand and its ridiculous situation when the yellows were taking over the airports, clearly airports project to the world what a country represents, that would have put Thais to shame right? But nooooooo, the yellows say the current red actions are shaming the country. Then I'd like to ask these ppl the question, What about back in 2008, the yellow action of taking over the airports was not unprecedened? Was Not a shameful act at all??
Then there were even suggestions back in 2008 by some, not all, yellows that the current election system should be changed such that a good proportion of seats would not be elected thru elections but instead 'chosen' by 'a group of professions and sectors of society'..sounds to me to be what the currently undemocratic Hong Kong system is like. This is as the yellows, being mainly rich and middle-class elites residing in Bangkok and other main cities, know VERY WELL they cannot win an election fair and square in a country like Thailand, where the MAJORITY of Thais are still urban and rural poors despite the great economic strides made by Thailand in the past few decades, and thus by carving out a sizeable percentage of seats in parliament to be 'chosen by professions' it was clear they would be able to possibly win the elections given that the power connections meant that rural and urban poors would very unlikely be in most of these professions, presumably chosen from elitist backgrounds such as solicitors, judges, authors, businessmen, whom are all mainly yellow supporters. And the yellows claim to be the true guardians of 'democracy'....having used rallies and violent tactics and the military to topple 3 successive election results which elected Thaksin or pro-Thaksin parties to govt. It seems that the yellows just don't like election results when it doesn't go their way. One leader was even quoted in 2008 protests that 'they'll protest until the pro-Thaksin govt was toppled and they will not accept any further election results if it results in another pro-Thaksin govt in power'...wow, how democratic, that's like saying in the US, the Democrats have won power but get toppled by the Republican-backed military and Democrat party gets dissolved and all its members banned from politics and they regroup and form a new party called The New Democrats and once again win elections and Republican supporters rally and take over airports in New York and San Francisco demanding that the New Democrats come down and they won't accept any election results which put the Democrats, whatever form or shade, back into power..or in Australia, if one said we'll protest and accept any party except the Labour Party in govt'....sounds ridiculous right? Basically, the yellows don't respect elections, they just want to have it their way...and when they can't do it thru elections, they do it thru coups by the military or taking over international airports in thailand..remember, every time the pro-Thaksin party comes into power including the period when thaksin ruled was BY ELECTIONS.
Since the military coup, the yellows have only come into power with Abhisek BY COUPS AND COURT RULINGS. NOT ELECTIONS. It is clear that the majority of thais, whom also happen to be mainly urban/rural poor, are reds and support thaksin. That is what a democracy is. It is what the simple majority wants. And it is not what a sizeable urban powerful and socially and economically powerful elite want.
The biggest argument of the yellows is that Thaksin was corrupt and that currently, the yellow Democrat Party govt are giving the same benefits or even more benefits to the rural poor BUT HOLD ON for a sec. That's just like saying I am elected as Managing Director of a Corporation by the majority, then a group of elites topple me by force and unilaterally and replace me with their own MD and he COPIES or improves on the ideas and policies which I developed and say hey, whats the difference? Its NOT FAIR. You cannot simply come into power with military force (the yellows) and then COPY Thaksin's extremely popular policies and ideas and claim them as your own. Even the corruption charges at the root of anti-thaksin arguments is a poor argument for coups and banning pro-thaksin parties. Just recently, the independent Thailand Electoral Commission has ruled that the yellow Democrat party has also been corrupt in gaining campaigning funds and misuse of electoral funds... i mean hello! Every party and leader in Thailand has arguably been corrupt...but none of them, it seems, did more or cared more for the rural and urban poor or poured money into the rural provinces as much as Thaksin did.
So, basically, everyone was corrupt and did nothing for the rural poor, knowing that they can be ignored, but thaksin was alleged corrupt BUT he ALSO provided much for the previously neglected rural poor of Thailand, giving them a voice and economic benefits. So saying he/his party shouldn't be in power because of corruption is simply disingenious when all previous govt had also been corrupt to varying degrees AND neglected or ignored Thailand's vast rural population. The current Democrat Party has also been proven to be corrupt by the independent Elections Commission of Thailand and there is no guarantee it wouldn't become as corrupt as Thaksin allegedly was in the future.
So, my question is, how can you replace a democratically elected govt with an elitist-backed one whom simply copies Thaksin's policies and is corrupt itself?! Furthermore, the current party was the result of a military coup plus two court decisions, not a democratic election. They have no right to be there.
Le Majeste Laws of Thailand:
This is an even more sensitive topic which could possibly land me in jail were I in Thailand or entered Thailand. However, given that this is the web, with anonymity (my nickname bears no resemblance to my real name so there's no way they could possibly identify me via this blog, and furthermore, thai authorities wouldn't even know my current passport (cos my bckground is so varied) or even my gender to identify me.
This is the Le Majeste Laws of Thailand which prohibits anyone from writing or saying anything negative about the King or the Royal Family of Thailand. This means that there have been cases of ppl being thrown into jail for years for simply suggesting that the King has been ill-advised by his advisers or that his son, the apparent heir, is a playboy. (The apparent heir, has been divorced 2x and married 3 x with crown princesses ever younger in age. There was also a leaked video online of a birthday party held for his poodle whereby the prince's wife was topless parading around...not a pretty sight for the future queen with her breasts now exposed for all to see)
This also means that it is open to abuse for political means. The yellows associate themselves with being pro-Royals and paint the Reds as Anti-Royals. This is extremely dangerous as it is defaming reds as anti-loyal unpatriotic betrayers of Thailand and also can be used to arrest red supporters for any action/words deemed to be anti-royals. The position of the Thai-Monarchy is much higher than the British royalty or even the Japanese royalty in the public's eyes.
It reminds me of a time when the Japanese emperor was considered a living god and pro-militarist would accuse anti-war Japanese during WW2 of being anti-royals and traitors and jail them up. It reminds me of a time when Mao was considered a living god in China and red guards would accuse those whom did not show absolute worship of Mao during the Cultural Revolution of being anti-Mao, and traitors of their country. Different factions would also contest to prove who was the closest and real supporters of Mao and no one dared criticise Mao directly, instead placing the blame on his close advisers, The Gang of Four and Jiang Qing, placing Mao above any room for criticism. Food for thought, no?
PS: Make your own connections as I do not want to make assertions and assinuations on this very sensitive topic but if history is any lesson, the similarities are clear and apparent to anyone with their minds and eyes open.
PPS: There are now 'multi-coloured shirts' whom say they are not connected to the govt and they want the govt to clamp down on the protesters just to resume peace and order to their daily lives in Bangkok. Thats a pure joke, literally. The current govt, yellows, and multi-coloured are really all in the same pot, anti-Thaksin, and representing middle-class and elitist concerns when the majority of Thailand's people are lower-poor urban and rural residents. Its funny how they now want' peace' and no 'violence' now that their yellow govt is in power when back when the democratically-elected red govt was in power, they had no qualms about destroying Thailand's image with the exact same rallies, taking over of international airports,etc. And they're complaining of their lives being disrupted because they cannot do business and shop at the high-end shopping malls and eat at the upscale luxury hotels which the red masses have formed protest stations at?
Well, for their information, most of these red supporters have prob never even entered these shopping malls or ate at any of them before.....A case of hitting them where it hurts...haha...
PPPS: I think i'm always supporting parties which, on a socio-economic level, I never belong in..for instance, in Taiwan's politics, I've always supported the DPP instead of the KMT despite my family bckground and area where we live which all leans heavily towards the KMT and in the current case of Thailand, clearly I have less in common with the rural poor of Thailand than the middle and upper class elites of Bangkok, but I believe that goes even more to show which side is worth supporting more...