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Perspectives

April 8, 2009
Déjà vu as Thai protesters demand govt’s resignation

Protests in Thailand.

Tens of thousands of protesters massed in Bangkok Wednesday, demanding the government’s resignation.

Thailand’s political situation remains tenuous and the country has seen a string of prime ministers come and go in recent years. Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigned as a result of demonstrations.

Though current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was elected by parliament just five months ago, he faces lingering public discontent, largely from Thailand’s rural poor.

Andy Scott is the managing editor for Asia Briefing and has lived and worked in Asia since 2002. He writes at “2point6billion” about the reasons for the current protests.

Protests Grind Bangkok to a Halt Again

In what might appear to be déjà vu except for the color of their shirts, thousands of red-shirted anti-government protestors descended on Government House in Bangkok today, signaling yet the beginning of yet another round of destabilizing protests that threaten to again bring government and commerce to a halt again.

The protestors have declared that Wednesday was D-Day for their cause, claiming that they will draw up to 3000,000 people from the eastern and northern parts of Thailand, the traditional stronghold of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin lost power in a bloodless coup in 2006 while traveling abroad.

The red shirts, formally known as the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, aim to topple current Prime Minster Abhisit Vejjajiva. According to Bangkok police, about 30,000 protestors gathered outside the main government offices in the capital, where demonstrators have been staging a sit-in for the past two weeks. The Bangkok Post reports that the protests come a day after the red shirts attacked Abhisit’s motorcade following a cabinet meeting in Pattaya.

The prime minister warned that crowd dispersal could be used if the protests spiraled out of control. “’If it [the protests] develops into mayhem, we may have to do that,” he said on Wednesday morning.

Thaksin, living in exile in an undisclosed location to avoid a Thai jail term for corruption, said that the protests would be a “historic day for Thailand.”

“We will come peacefully but we need as many people as possible to show that the Thai people will not tolerate these politics anymore,” he said in a video that was played for supported outside Government House on Tuesday night.

Thailand has seen wave after wave of protests following the 2006 coup as the country is now deeply divided between the red shirts, Thaksin’s supporters among the urban and rural poor, and the yellow shirts, the traditional power cliques of the palace, military and bureaucracy.

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