We’ve all known things have been less than peachy in Thailand for the last year or so. However when the Thai military seized control of the nations media at 6.00am yesterday morning, we really started paying attention.
As one of our closest neighbouring nations, Thailand is a hit with Australian travellers (we just can’t get enough of that Singha) and we also have Thai people to thank for our $8.50 pad thai (no tofu, please) lunch specials. But now, Thailand is facing some serious problems and we need to know why.
If you’ve been reading the newspapers, watching the box or following the tweets in a desperate bid to get up to date – you might be feeling confused.
If this is true – don’t worry, I’ve got your back. As a waitress in a Thai restaurant I am uniquely equipped to fill in the gaps for you in 7 steps.
1. To really understand what’s happening with our Thai friends we need to go back in time, to 2009. The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship or แนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ; นปช in Thai (try saying that 10 times!), were staging protests against the Democratic Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva led government. The Red Shirts (as The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship became known) protests led to the death of 87 people and 1378 injuries. Sheesh.
2. Let’s jump forward to the July 3, 2011. Yingluck Shinawatra (younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra – but we’ll get to that later) had won the federal election by a landslide. As the leader of the Pheu Thai political party, she was also the first female Prime Minister of Thailand and was officially endorsed by the King.
3. Sadly, the merrymaking did not last long. Protests against Shinawatra became a regular affair and new opposition to her leadership was found in Suthep Thaugsuban, a previous member of the Democratic party. There are varying reports about Thaugsubans motives. Some media report that he is after dictatorship for himself whilst others suggest that he wants an end to the Thaksin Regime (as the years of Shinawatra power became known). Either way, it’s clear he is not a fan of the Shinawatras.
This civil unrest was compounded in 2013 when Shinawatra proposed amnesty for all protesters in the 2009-10 protests as well as those guilty of political crimes. This, critically, would affect her brother – Thaksin. He had been in self-imposed exile after being accused of corruption whilst in office as Prime Minister – however had remained popular. His policies, whilst lining the pockets of those close to him also provided infrastructure and jobs to the Thai people.
4. Yingluck Shinawatra tried to quell the increasingly violent dissent last year by moving the election date forward to February this year. However, the leader whose popularity has been plummeting with accusations of nepotism was also heavily criticised after backing a policy to inflate the price of rice. This move lead to a national fiscal emergency which could see her banned from politics for five years for negligence.
5. The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee have been protesting Shinawatra since then, blocking elections as well as shutting down government offices and closing roads. These anti-government protesters have become known as The Yellow-Shirts, while the Red-Shirts stand for the government.
6. To many people, the protests and almost-street-warfare was a battle between those who knew they could win an election and were fighting for the right to an election – the Red Shirts – and those who disagreed with the Shinawatra government and wanted them out. However, the Shinawatra government remains popular, leaving the Yellow Shirts – who oppose the government in a pickle. Because of this, the only option was thus to disrupt all political actions, including elections because they would not have the power to win in a democratic election.
7. Enter the military! In a bid to halt all protests and lobbying (or at least they say) from from all political parties and groups, the Thai military yesterday morning seized control of the nations media and declared martial law. It’s important to remember that this is not the same as a coup – the military has not forcibly taken over the government. However, given that Thailand has had over 10 military coups – it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think they might be heading there again.