Thai history repeating

Matthew Murchie
Matthew Murchie |

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Illustration: Matthew Murchie

By Matthiew Murchie, St Joseph's College

The long-standing protests in Bangkok have led to more than 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries, and only now is there a glimmer of hope.

The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship, or the 'red shirts', have occupied a popular shopping mall in Bangkok for more than four weeks now. They claim reinforcements are on the way.

The commotion began in 2006, when then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, facing mounting allegations of corruption and conflict of interest, was forced to step down in a military coup.

After months of martial law, Samak Sundaravej came to power, but one-and-a-half years later, social unrest led to a massive uprising and occupation of Bangkok's main airports. The People's Alliance for Democracy ('yellow shirts') claimed Samak was a proxy for Thaksin, and he, too, was ousted.

Two years later, history seems to be repeating. Thaksin's supporters are back, demanding the parliament be dissolved.

With both sides standing firm, there are limited ways the confrontation could end, each as unlikely as the next - one side might back down, or the Thai King or the military could intervene.

So, what will become of the social unrest? At the moment, nobody knows. One thing that's interesting to note, though, is that Thailand seems unable to break the trend of such political upheavals.

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