Thais Grow Tired of Former PM Thaksin


Many adults in Thailand believe former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra should not be involved in the country’s public life anymore, according to a poll by ABAC. 61.4 per cent of respondents say they would be happier if Thaksin stopped his political activities.

Thailand has experienced more than three years of political instability, including the dissolution of the lower house, a cancelled national election, a military coup and the enactment of a new constitution. In December 2007, Thailand held a legislative ballot. Final results gave the People’s Power Party (PPP) 232 of the 480 seats, followed by the Democratic Party (PP) with 165 mandates.

In January 2008, PPP leader Samak Sundaravej became prime minister.

Samak’s government faced fierce opposition and major street protests led by the civic organization People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The group accused Samak of being a puppet of Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup.

In August, the PAD occupied the Government House in Bangkok, demanding Samak’s resignation. Samak stepped down in September after the national Constitutional Court found that he violated conflict of interest laws when he received payments for hosting two television cooking shows. Somchai Wongsawat—who had been serving as deputy prime minister—took over as acting head of government.

In late November, PAD activists took over Bangkok’s international airport—where the government had been working from after its offices were invaded in August—demanding Somchai’s resignation. The airport was forced to shut down entirely, stranding thousands of tourists.

In December, the Constitutional Court ordered the PPP and its two coalition partners, the Machima Thipatai party and the Chart Thai party, to disband after it found them guilty of voter fraud in the 2007 ballot. The court also banned Somchai and executives from the three parties from participating in politics for five years. Somchai accepted the verdict and stepped down. Protesters at the airport welcomed the ruling and ended the siege. PP leader Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister, with the support of 235 lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

In March 2009, Thaksin accused Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda of masterminding the 2006 military coup, and openly called for a “people’s revolution” to topple the Abhisit government. In April, the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)—whose followers wear red shirts at rallies—organized protests in Bangkok and Chonburi, ultimately forcing the cancellation of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. After Abhisit implemented a state of emergency, Thai soldiers fired live rounds into the air and used tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters.

On Aug. 17, Thaksin addressed a crowd of supporters in Bangkok by telephone from an undisclosed location, and said: “People are here today because they feel fed up with three years of injustice. We count on His Majesty’s good grace to reconcile Thailand.”

Polling Data

Would you be happier if former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra stops his political activities?

Yes 61.4%
No 38.6%

Source: Assumption University of Thailand (ABAC)
Methodology: Interviews with 1,292 Thai adults in 17 provinces, conducted in August 2009. Margin of error is 2 per cent.

Angus Reid Global Monitor

September 03, 2009


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