The many colours of Thai revolutions

India’s neighbours are in constant turmoil. Its western neighbour and arch enemy, Pakistan is in complete mess, Nepal in its north is struggling to make democracy work and Sri Lanka, which very recently vanquished the Liberation Tamil Tigers, is on its way to politics of vindictiveness. Thankfully the eastern neighbour Bangladesh is recuperating from the wounds inflicted upon it by the military and Islamist forces.

As if these were not enough, India’s another not-so-near neighbour, Thailand was once again held hostage to the demands of protesters known as Red Shirt movement. The Red Shirts, drawn from rural masses and the urban poor, were demanding new elections, saying they have been disenfranchised by a Bangkok elite backed by the military that is unwilling to share power with the common people. Though they suspended their siege of Bangkok they said they will resume protests next month if their demands were not met.

Thailand is not new to so called colour revolutions. A couple of years back (2008), the Yellow Shirt movement paralysed the country and the agitators were only pacified after their demands were met. The current government is a by-product of that movement. The then government which had roots in the former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had to resign and make way for a minority government.

In similar protests, the Red Shirts, who have been accused of being bankrolled by Shinawatra, laid siege to the country’s main financial and retail district in Bangkok. According to government estimates, the government lost close to $1.5 billion due to the blockades and the protests.

After Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called in the military, the protesters had to retreat but it only seems to be momentary. Over 50 protesters died in the military crackdown. But they have vowed to come back to continue with their so called democratic struggle. Thailand is a classic example of immature democracy, which has failed to bring in more and more people in the fold of middle class – a healthy situation for democracy.

Thailand’s democratic or street movements should have been good for democracy but instead they have become a tool in destabilising successive governments at the hands of vested interests e.g., oligarchs, big businessmen and military.

Ironically, the Yellow Shirts who lead their agitation as People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), when they came to power, the first thing they did was: They proposed changes to Thailand’s Constitution that would restrict voting rights and have some MPs appointed by interest groups rather than national elections.

Thaksin Shinawatra may be in exile but his involvement in Thai politics has always been as close as one can think of. By bankrolling and remote-controlling street agitations, he may achieve his purpose. But in the end, this may weaken Thailand.

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1 Response to “The many colours of Thai revolutions”


  1. 1 Anuj Dhar May 27, 2010 at 4:32 am

    it used to be a peaceful country. what has gone wrong all of a sudden?


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