Thailand: protesters shut down ASEAN summit

The summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Thai resort town of Pattaya was abruptly canceled April 11 after hundreds of protesters forced their way past security forces into the convention center where leaders were preparing to discuss the global economic crisis. About half of the leaders at the meeting were evacuated by helicopter, including those of Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines, while other officials fled by boat.

Thousands of red-shirted supporters of the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup, overwhelmed police and army troops outside the hotel complex, demanding that the government of current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, step down. (NYT, April 11; The Guardian, April 10)

The United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), or “red shirts”, formerly known as the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD), was established in 2006 to fight against the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and support the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra after the Sept. 19 coup that year. During the military regime in 2006-2007, the DAAD organized an ongoing protest campaign against the government.

The red shirt movement cooled down after the Thaksin-affiliated parties, led by Samak Sundaravej, won the December 2007 general election. But the red shirts mobilized a counter-protest campaign against the anti-Thaksin PAD protests starting in May 2008.

UDD, with a stronghold in Thailand’s north, is known for its support for Thaksin and the subsequent two pro-Thaksin administrations led by Samak and Somchai Wongsawat. When the pro-Thaksin ruling People’s Power Party (PPP) was dissolved by Thailand’s Constitution Court in December 2008, and Abhisit Vejjajiva of the minority Democrat Party was elected prime minister later, the red shirts turned up in force on Thailand’s streets once again, claiming the election was unfair.

On March 26, UDD supporters began rallying in large numbers around Bangkok. On April 8, in a so-called “showdown” with the UDD, up to 100,000 red shirts assembled in Bangkok, demanding Abhisit and three Privy Council members resign. (Bangkok Post, April 12; Xinhua, April 11)

Sounds like the globophobes who recently protested the London G20 and Strasbourg NATO summits could learn a thing or two from the red shirts.

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  1. Thailand headed for revolution?
    From AlJazeera, April 13:

    Troops in Thailand have begun cracking down on anti-government protesters, with shooting heard in the capital, Bangkok.

    Soldiers and demonstrators clashed in the early hours of Monday as troops moved to secure a major road junction, forcing back hundreds of protesters, the Reuters news agency reported.

    Protesters threw stones and retreated to side streets but several were arrested and at least two soldiers were injured.

    The crackdown comes after Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, declared a state of emergency in the city on Sunday following protests on Saturday that forced the cancellation of a regional summit in the nearby town of Pattaya.

    It also follows a call for the overthrow of the government by Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in a military coup in 2006 whom the protesters support.

  2. Thailand’s “yellow shirt” leader shot

    From AlJazeera, April 17:

    The leader of Thailand's so-called Yellow Shirts protest movement against Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, has been shot and wounded in Bangkok.

    Sondhi Limthongkul's car was attacked at a petrol station in the Thai capital early on Friday, a spokesman for his People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), said.

    Panthep Puapongpan, a PAD spokesman, said a driver and bodyguard were also wounded.

    The PAD was behind a week-long siege of Bangkok's airports late last year to protest against allies of Thaksin within the government.

    The attack comes just days after supporters of Thaksin, known as the Red Shirts, called off their own protests in the capital following street battles with the military and Bangkok residents that left two people dead and more than 100 injured.

    The assault was carried out by two assailants who shot out the tyres of Sondhi's car and then riddled the vehicle with bullets, Panthep said.

    Doctors later said Sondhi was out of danger after a successful operation to remove a bullet fragment from his skull.

    Sondhi Limthongkul led the sucessful campaign to oust Thailand's prime minister in 2008.