Elephant’s Leg

Yellow shirts rise up

Yellow shirts rise up

The first item on the agenda is to fill in the gaps between September 2008 and September 2009, before I will start writing about more timely stuff, as and when it happens. I will be concise, because 12 months is a long time to chronicle, and will perhaps return to certain points in more detail at a later date.

There have been two major anti-government protests during my time here. The first, aforementioned one culminated in the “yellow shirts”, or People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) closing down Bangkok’s two airports for a week in November. This essentially forced out the then-government led by Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, to be replaced by the unelected then-opposition Democrat Party Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The PAD, despite the use of the word “democracy” in its name, was protesting against a government which had been democratically elected, and happy enough that their favoured premier took the reins without the public having been asked their opinion on the matter.

Inevitably, there was in turn a corresponding protest against the new government, this time by the “red shirts”, or United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). This protest, in April, was shorter-lived but more violent, as the army, which sat idly by when the entire nation was essentially held hostage by the PAD’s closure of the capital’s airpots, suddenly sprang to life and quelled the UDD’s uprising in very short order. When you compare the two incidents, it doesn’t take much to suspect that the army – which is supposed to be an independent defender of the nation’s security – might be acting on orders from higher powers with vested interests in who runs the country.

But things have quietened down since then. Sure, there are still gatherings and arguments, and I suspect the situation is simmering rather than solved, but PM Abhisit, despite his tenuous rise to power, seems to be a calming influence – charismatic, good-looking, multilingual and media savvy, with more presence than Somchai, a less combative stance than Samak Sundaravej and – on the surface, at least – without the scandals that follow Thaksin Shinawatra. Abhisit could just be a PR job, but he is for now providing at least a symptomatic cure, and there is value in that.

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