2005-2006 Thai political crisis


2005-2006 Thai political crisis

The 2005-2006 Thai political crisis was a period in which series of events occurred that ended the political career of Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. It resulted in the overthrow of the Thai Rak Thai government in the Thailand coup, the exile of Thaksin, the ascension to power of the Council for National Security led by Sonthi Boonratkalin, and the establishment of the junta government led by Surayud Chulanont, a favorite of privy councillor and senior statesman Prem Tinsulanonda.

The crisis and resulting coup and post-coup military government called into question issues of media freedom, the role of the constitution in breaking a political deadlock, and the existence of political stability in Thailand. It also reflected long-term and significant disparity between urban and rural political orientation and abuses of power and conflict of interest of a democratically elected leader that have long plagued the Thai political landscape. These issues contributed to the crisis and culminated in the coup d'état of September 2006.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a media tycoon who had previously been a staunch supporter of Thaksin, played a major role in the crisis through the establishment of the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy. The PAD aligned itself with several state-enterprise unions (who were against Thaksin's privatization plans for state enterprises), supporters of the controversial monk Luang Ta Maha Bua (who opposed the Thaksin government's appointment of Somdet Phra Buddhacharya as acting Supreme Patriarch in place of the critically ill Somdet Phra Yanasangworn), prominent socialites and members of the Thai royal family (who claimed that Thaksin frequently insulted King Bhumibol Adulyadej), various factions in the Thai military (who claimed that Thaksin promoted only those who were loyal to him), and various civic groups (who criticized Thaksin for not paying taxes during the sale of Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings, although the capital gains from the transaction were legally exempt from taxation). The movement was highly controversial.

Secret planning for the coup that later overthrew the elected government started in approximately February 2006. That same month, Thaksin dissolved Parliament and called a general legislative election for the House of Representatives in April 2006. Most major opposition parties boycotted the election. After the elections, King Bhumibol requested that the courts resolve the crisis. Soon afterwards, the Constitutional Court invalidated the elections based on the positioning of voting booths, and the Criminal Court later jailed members of the Election Commission that did not obey the Court's request to resign. New elections were scheduled for 15 October 2006. This time, the Opposition announced it was contesting the election, and numerous newly founded parties actively campaigned. The election was cancelled after a military coup on 19 September 2006, while Thaksin was in New York to attend a United Nations summit. Thaksin has since been in exile. The PAD dissolved itself 2 days after the coup after announcing that their goal had been accomplished, but since then (February 2008) has vowed to resume protests should pro-Thaksin practices and policies of the Samak government become evident.

Origins of the crisis

Context

Post Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been embroiled in several controversies since assuming power after the 2001 election. These controversies included alleged conflicts of interest due to his family's holdings in Shin Corporation and a violent crackdown on drug dealers. However, none of these controversies caused significant damage to his popularity, and he became the first elected prime minister to serve a full term, subsequently winning re-elections in January 2005 by a landslide exacerbated by a boycott of opposition parties. The boycott was instrumental in His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej later terming the election "undemocratic".

Viroj Nualkhair controversy

The origins of the crisis may be traced to the controversy surrounding Viroj Nualkhair, CEO of state-owned Krung Thai Bank (KTB). [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.arcview.php?clid=6&id=58371 The Nation, "New party, old friends aid Sondhi", 11 April 2002] ] Viroj faced pressure to leave his position after KTB reported higher than expected levels of non-performing loans in 2004. Viroj was vigorously defended by Sondhi Limthongkul, a media tycoon who had previously been a staunch Thaksin supporter. As KTB CEO, Viroj had forgiven Sondhi's personal debts by THB 1.6 billion and arranged for further rounds of debt forgiveness. When Viroj was forced out of his position, Sondhi's public criticism of Thaksin started to increase.

The conflict escalates

The Sondhi-Thaksin conflict escalated when Sondhi's Channel 11/1 was temporarily ordered to stop broadcasting due to a contract dispute between cable operator UBC and the government regulator. [cite news| url=http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=12552| publisher=Bangkok Post| title= UBC complies, drops channel| date=2004-07-02] [cite news| url=http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=12621| publisher=Bangkok Post| title=UBC to resume televising Channel 11/1| date=2004-07-08]

In September 2005, Sondhi reportedly made repeated disrespectful on-air references to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Among these references was a claim that the government's 2004 appointment of Somdet Phra Buddhacharya as acting Supreme Patriarch in place of the critically ill Somdet Phra Yanasangworn contravened the prerogative of the King. According to Thai ecclesiastic law, the Supreme Patriarch is nominated by the Supreme Sangha Council and formally appointed by the King. Somdet Phra Phuthacharn's appointment was vehemently opposed by Luang Ta Maha Bua, an influential monk with close affiliations to Sondhi (see Luang Ta Maha Bua's opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra). After discussions with King's principal private secretary, Arsa Sarasin, MCOT executive, removed the program. [cite news| publisher=The Nation| url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r17.php| title=Ch 9 drops Sondhi for royal references| date= 2005-09-16] [cite news| publisher=The Bangkok Post| url=http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=70,854,0,0,1,0| title=Monastic feud could lead to a schism| date= 2005-03-05]

The Judiciary under the 1997 Constitution

The Administrative and Constitutional Courts (the first in Thai history) were set up to be based on the French and Italian judicial system, where the judge has direct authority and supervises the investigation into the facts of the case. This is in contrast to the civil and criminal justice systems in Thailand (and most countries) based on the role of a judge as the one who examines the case based solely on the arguments of the prosection and defense attorneys. The administrative court was setup to resolve complaints against the misconduct, neglect or outright abuse by bureaucratic and government agencies. The constitution court was setup to resolve conflicts about unconstitutional legislation.

Apparently the drafters of the 1997 Constitution were quite far sighted by putting in a mechanism to resolve abuses and misconduct by people in authority. But then the Constitutional Court was initially not seen as important, and few anticipated the nature of potential conflicts in legislation could be critical. So the more experienced judges did not see any prestige in taking up position within that judiciary.

Their oversight became glaring when Thaksin's 1st Asset Concealment case was brought to the Constitutional Court. His TRT party had just won the popular vote by a historic majority, but he had not completely disclosed his assets as required by the law. A false asset disclosure would normally disqualify someone from taking up any political post for five years. But he pleaded with tears in his eyes that it was just a clerical error. The judges voted narrowly by a 7-8 margin to allow him to take up the office of Prime Minister reasoning that people had overwhelmingly voted for his party and his wealth was distributed in many assets that the clerical error could probably be an honest mistake.

Also, later on in further contentious cases, the Constitution Court judges acted as if they were only to examine the evidence from lawyers. They even avoided any volatile issues by refusing the case citing "lack of sufficient evidence".

Most countries have one Supreme Court as the final arbiter of all legal cases, but Thailand had three separate judiciaries.With separate branches of the judiciary, the Civil, Criminal, Administrative and Constitutional Courts. The Civil and Criminal courts had the Supreme Court as the final arbiter. The Administrative Courts had the Supreme Administrative Court as the final arbiter. While the Constitution Court was independent of the other two Supreme Courts. Since many cases can be filed on different court systems depending on the type of infringement...so here you have the basis for contradictory rulings which can really create conflict in any society. Also, even worse, some courts started passing the buck and ruled that some cases were not within their jurisdiction.

This was well known by people in the halls of power, who thoroughly exploited the weaknesses and inconsistencies in the court rulings.

On 24 February 2006, Thaksin dissolved Parliament just a year after being re-elected and called for new House elections on 2 April 2006. In March 2006, the PAD requested that the King intervene into the political crisis and remove Premier Thaksin Shinawatra from power. The demands for royal intervention met with much criticism. Yet many people supported the idea as the only possible peaceful answer to the political crisis. The King himself in a speech on April 26 dismissed the notion, saying "Asking for a Royally appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational."

However, the King did intervene on 26 April by ordering the court system to resolve the political crisis. All the heads of the different branches of the judiciary met together. The Supreme Administrative Court halted April 29 by-election. On April 31, the Supreme Court refused to accept the nomination, by Suchon Chalikrua the caretaker Senate speaker, of another election commission official to make up the EC quorum mandated by the Constitution. On May 16, the presidents of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and the Constitution Court publicly called on the remaining EC officials to resign as a way to end the stalemate. On May 29, the Criminal Court accepts 2 separate cases of dereliction of duty and malfeasance against the EC officials. On July 25, the Criminal Court found the EC guilty of mishandling the April 2 election, the court declined to suspend the jail term against them, the EC were refused bail and lost their status when they were forced to spend a night in jail. The courts start the process to appoint new election officials in time for an October 15 election.

Luang Ta Maha Bua incident

On 27 September 2005, "Manager Daily" published a sermon by Luang Ta Maha Bua, a popular but controversial monk. [th icon cite web| url=http://www.manager.co.th/Politics/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9480000132593| title=404 error| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=manager.co.th] [cite news| url=http://sanpaworn.vissaventure.com/?id=198| title=Channeling Luangta Maha Bua, sort of | date= 2005-10-10| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=sanpaworn.vissaventure.com] The sermon was extremely critical of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and further controversial because it came from a monk who is one of Thailand's most revered temple abbots and who has organized several huge donations of solid gold to the Thai Treasury(who are above criticism in Buddhist Thailand). Especially controversial were the following quotes:

"They complained to me about PM Thaksin and Mr. Visanu and two other people that I don’t remember. This is the big ogre [Thai: ตัวยักษ์ใหญ่] , big power. Atrocious power will swallow our country, bite liver and lungs and aim for the presidency....He will put a torch to the country. He will never listen....This savagery and atrocity appear in every aspect of him.... All he has are things to be used for burning."

"He is clearly aiming for the presidency now. The monarch trampled, the religion trampled, the country trampled, by this savage and atrocious power in a few people in the government circle. That is the circle of ogres, of ghosts, of trolls, of demons [Thai:ยักษ์วงผีวงเปรตวงมาร] , all in there....So even Devadatta saw the harm he caused, and he was rewarded for his good deed. He would attain Buddhahood [Thai:พระปัจเจกพุทธเจ้า] . For those who have made mistakes, if we see the harm we cause, we can still get by. But what is it with Thailand? What kind of governance?"

"They even dare to accuse Luangta Maha Bua of playing politics. Politics, dog shit [Thai:การบ้านการเมืองขี้หมาอะไร] . There’s only shit all over the country. I brought Buddha’s dharma to cleanse in order for them to repent and recognize good and evil. Because they’re the government. The world flatters them as smart people, but don’t be smart down the toilet [Thai:แต่อย่าฉลาดลงส้วมลงถาน] . Don’t be smart about putting a torch to the head of everyone in the country, from Nation, Religion, and Monarchy on down. These guys will get burned unless they recognize the truth. I’m saddened by all this. How does this come about?"

Thailand has no office of presidency. The King is the head of state, as the prime minister is head of government. A president would replace the King - an unthinkable affront to the Thais’ reverence for the monarchy. Accusations of aspiration to presidency is one of the most severe and rare criticisms a Thai politician can receive.

On 11 October 2005, Thaksin sued "Manager" newspaper for THB 500 million. [cite news| url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/sondhi/r24.php| title=DEFAMATION LAWSUITS: Luangta Bua escapes PM's legal wrath| publisher=The Nation| date=2005-10-11| accessdate=2006-09-21] As monks have traditionally been above criticism, Thaksin did not sue Luang Ta Maha Bua. "This is an exercise of an individual's right to protect his reputation and privacy. The newspaper did not criticise the prime minister fairly as a public official, but rather it took him to task personally, using harsh words, which was damaging to him," Thana Benjathikul, Thaksin's lawyer said.

Thaksin was immediately attacked by critics and accused of gagging the press. "Manager" owner Sondhi Limthongkul's lawyer, Suwat Apaipakdi, quoting claimed that "every newspaper reproduced his [Luang Ta Maha Bua] comments. Why did Thaksin not sue him [Luang Ta Maha Bua] ? He chose to sue only the Manager Media Group because it's linked to Khun Sondhi". Thaksin's legal team noted that other newspapers only published selected passages of the sermon, and furthermore, that a slanderous headline was used. Respected civil rights lawyer Thongbai Thongpao has noted that Thaksin's lawsuit did have merit. He added that the lawsuits "do not constitute an attack on freedom of the press". [ [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/GK02Ae01.html Asia Times Online :: Southeast Asia news and business from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam ] ]

The case, along with several other libel cases, was withdrawn after King Bhumibol Adulyadej indirectly advised against such legal action during his annual birthday speech.

As recently as 14 March 2006, Luang Ta Maha Bua has asked Thaksin to resign. In a sermon that the monk called "most vehement since the temple was set up," the monk said it was time for Thaksin to abandon the "rotten system he is presiding over". He described the government as "wicked, corrupt, power-hungry and greedy". [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=20002208 Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ]

Temple of the Emerald Buddha incident

On 10 April 2005, Thaksin Shinawatra presided over a merit-making ceremony at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the holiest site in Thai Buddhism. Starting October 2005, the website of Phoochatkarn newspaper ran an article alleging that the Prime Minister had usurped the Royal powers of the King by presiding over the ceremony. This led Sondhi Limthongkul, the owner of Phoochatkarn, to start using "We Love the King", "We Will Fight for the King", and "Return Power to the King" as his key anti-Thaksin rallying slogans. This allegation has been repeated in Sondhi's "Thailand Weekly" live tapings. It also became a staple of the Thailand-insider.com website of Ekkayuth Anchanbutr, a notable critic of Thaksin. A widely circulated spam email showed a picture of Thaksin sitting on a chair normally used by the King and asking "People are familiar with images only of the King and members of the Royal Family, all dressed in royal uniforms and decorated with full regalia, presiding over grand ceremonies in the temple’s main chapel. Yet this picture makes me think: What has happened to our country?".

On 9 November 2005, Cabinet secretary-general Bovornsak Uwanno claimed that King Bhumibol Adulyadej granted permission to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to preside over a grand merit-making ceremony. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/10/national/index.php?news=national_19114638.html Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ] This was corroborated by Chaktham Thammasak, who was director-general of the Bureau of National Buddhism during the time of the incident. Chaktham claims that the Royal Household Bureau designed every aspect of the ceremony, including the positioning of the chairs. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/11/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19127252.html Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ]

On 17 November 2005, the Civil Court issued a gag order on Sondhi to prevent him from making further allegations. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/17/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19189415.html Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ] This immediately prompted academics and intellectuals to attack Thaksin and accuse him of restricting press freedom. On November 2005, General Kittisak Ratprasert, former chief aide-de-camp to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, filed a complaint at Phra Ratchawang police station alleging that Thaksin and his deputy Visanu Krue-ngarm committed lèse majesté at the Temple. [ [http://www.2bangkok.com/high2005.shtml 2Bangkok.com - High tension in Thailand - 2005 ] ]

These charges have apparently been quietly dropped after King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday speech where he claimed he didn't take lèse majesté charges seriously. However, to this day, Sondhi still uses "We Will Fight for the King" and "Return Power to the King" as rallying cries in his anti-Thaksin protests.

Phra Phrom Erawan Shrine incident

In the early hours of 21 March 2006, Thanakorn Pakdeepol, 27, broke into the Phra Phrom Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok and attacked the statue of the god Brahma with a hammer. After destroying the statue, he was attacked and beaten to death by several people in the vicinity. Thanakorn Pakdeepol had a history of mental illness and depression. Thai police are still investigating the case. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/22/headlines/headlines_20003314.php Man beaten to death after desecrating the Erawan Shrine ] ] [ [http://robin33.blogspot.com/2006/03/angel-has-taken-flight-from-city.html robin's karma: The angel has taken flight from the city ] ]

At an anti-Thaksin rally on 22 March, protest-leader Sondhi Limthongkul claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra masterminded the destruction of the idol in order to replace Brahma with a "dark force" aligned to Thaksin. [ [http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/4/2/focus/13836842&sec=focus Dreaded day dawns – despite lies and dark forces ] ] Sondhi claimed that Thaksin hired Thanakorn through a Khmer black magic shaman. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/23/politics/politics_20003410.php Vandal's dad distraught ] ] Sondhi also questioned "why was the man stomped to death after he smashed the statue? I have in-depth information about someone who is deeply obsessed with superstition [referring to Thaksin] . He wants to destroy Thao Maha Phrom so that he can rebuild it by himself and then bury "his stuff" in the statue. This is a way to avert ill omens." [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/23/headlines/headlines_20003407.php Things to improve from now: Chidchai ] ]

The vandal's father, Sayant Pakdeepol called Sondhi "the biggest liar I have ever seen". Thaksin called Sondhi's accusations "insane". To date, Sondhi has refused to make public any details about his "in-depth information" regarding his accusations.

Personal attacks

Protesters made many personal attacks against Thaksin Shinawatra. It is debatable whether such attacks had any significant role in his downfall. Among them:

* Senator Karoon Sai-ngam of Buriram Province told women to pass photos of Thaksin between their legs and curse Thaksin three times to leave Thailand and flee to Singapore. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/16/headlines/headlines_20002858.php Has PM turned to black magic?] , The Nation, 16 Mar 2006]
* Controversial social critic and winner of the Right Livelihood Award Sulak Sivaraksa claimed that Thaksin Shinawatra had committed adultery: "As for breaking the Third Precept, I don’t have hard evidence. But there are lots of rumors that Thaksin and his cabinet ministers have engaged in many illicit sexual reveries—that Thaksin has been unfaithful to his wife. There is even a toddler who looks astonishingly like Thaksin. All these still cannot be proven. So we may have to give him the benefit of the doubt. But truths about Thaksin’s notorious sexual life will surely surface after his fall from power—like those of the dictator Sarit Thanarat." [ [http://www.sulak-sivaraksa.org/sulak313.php Personal website of Sulak Sivaraksa] ]

$1.88 billion Shin Corporation transaction

On Monday, January 232006, three days after new Thai Telecommunication Act (2006) passed on Friday, January 20, his family sold all stake in Shin Corporation, a leading communication company in Thailand, to Temasek Holdings with tax liability exemption. The families of Thaksin and his wife netted about 73 billion baht (about US$1.88 billion) tax-free from the buyout, using a regulation that individuals (as opposed to corporations) who sell shares on the stock exchange pay no capital gains tax.

The Thailand Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the transaction. "The investigation concluded that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his daughter Pinthongta are clear from all wrongdoing," said SEC secretary-general Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala on February 232006. [http://sg.news.yahoo.com/060223/1/3ywh2.html] However, the SEC did find that Thaksin's son, Panthongtae, violated rules with regard to information disclosure and public tender offers in transactions between 2000 and 2002. [http://www.bangkokpost.net/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=81324] He was fined 6 million THB (about 150,000USD). "The case is not severe because Panthongtae did inform the SEC but his report was not totally correct" said the SEC's deputy chief Prasong Vinaiphat. [ [http://www.brunei-online.com/weekend/news/mar11w12.htm] Dead link|date=March 2008]

Allegations of insider trading by the Shinawatras, executives, and major shareholders were also investigated. No irregularities were found. [http://bangkokpost.net/Business/07Apr2006_biz35.php] The military junta later reopened the investigations.

The transactions have made the Prime Minister the target of accusations that he was selling an asset of national importance to a foreign entity, and hence selling out his nation. The Democrat party spokesman called Thaksin worse than Saddam Hussein for not protecting the Thai economy from foreigners: "Dictator Saddam, though a brutal tyrant, still fought the superpower for the Iraqi motherland". [cite web| url=http://sanpaworn.vissaventure.com/log/261/worse-than-saddam| title=Worse than Saddam | date= 2006-02-28| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=sanpaworn.vissaventure.com] [cite web| url=http://www.matichon.co.th/matichon/matichon_detail.php?s_tag=01p0102300149&day=2006%2F01%2F30| title=รุกเปิดเจ้าของ"แอมเพิลริช" จี้"แม้ว"ตอบ ยุแก้ลำเลิกใช้มือถือ"เอไอเอส"| accessdate=2006-09-21] Supporters, however, counter that Thailand's mobile phone industry is highly competitive, and that little criticism was raised when the Norwegian firm Telenor acquired Total Access Communications, the country's second largest operator. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva had criticized Thaksin earlier for not sufficiently opening up the Thai telecom sector to foreigners. [cite web| url=http://sanpaworn.vissaventure.com/log/237/abhisit-vejjajiva-economic-nationalist| title=Abhisit Vejjajiva, economic nationalist | date= 2005-12-20| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=sanpaworn.vissaventure.com] [cite web| url=http://www.matichon.co.th/matichon/matichon_detail.php?s_tag=01soc05191248&day=2005%2F12%2F19| title=คอลัมน์ คมคำ| accessdate=2006-09-21] Supporters further counter that the complete sale of Shin Corporation by the Shinawatra family has been a long-standing demand of some public groups, [cite news| url=http://www.ipsnews.org/interna.asp?idnews=24328| title= Thaksin Goes For Jugular in Libel Case| first=Marwaan| last= Macan-Markar| date= 2004-06-23| publisher=Inter Press Service News Agency| accessdate=2006-09-21] as it would allow Thaksin to undertake his duties as Prime Minister without accusation of conflicts of interest.

Anti-Thaksin and pro-Thaksin demonstrations

Genesis of the demonstrations

The prime minister faced growing pressure to resign since the sell-off of his family’s controlling stake in Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government's investment agency. Although the SEC's investigation of the transaction cleared Thaksin of all wrongdoing, critics have still accused him of insider trading, use of tax law loopholes, selling out the nation, and other offenses.

Anti-Thaksin protesters are largely composed of urban upper/middle class royalist Bangkokians, dubbed the "Blue Blood Jet Set" by the "Bangkok Post". They have been joined by supporters of the controversial Santi Asoke Buddhist sect, followers of the controversial monk Luang Ta Maha Bua, and state enterprises employees who oppose privatization. Some academics and intellectuals have also joined the protests.

However, the protests have been divisive. Many urban upper/middle class Bangkokians have expressed frustration at the protesters. Early in 2005, a majority of the employees at state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand supported privatization. The popular but controversial Dharmakaya Buddhist sect has come out in support of Thaksin. Several members of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council have asked protesters to seek a peaceful resolution to the situation. Supreme Commander General Ruengroj Mahasaranond said "I should like to direct my message at a certain person who resorts to self-promotion by invoking the name of His Majesty...Rivals should not involve the monarch in their quarrels". [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/11/19/national/index.php?news=national_19202821.html Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ] Many academics have urged the protesters to adhere to the constitution and not pressure the King to appoint a replacement prime minister. Many also note that the majority of Thailand's population, particular the rural poor, are strong supporters of Thaksin.

On 14 January 2006, hundreds of protestors headed by Sondhi Limthongkul, former senator Pratin Santiprapop, Klanarong Chantik, and Democrat MP Kalaya Sophonpanich stormed into Government House at half past midnight, overwhelming security forces. They occupied the building for twenty minutes before regrouping outside and continuing their protest. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/01/14/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_19657935.html Thousands of protesters lay siege to Government House] , 14 January 2007]

An anti-Thaksin rally on February 4, 2006 at the Royal Plaza drew a very large crowd.Police and foreign media estimated the turnout to be 40,000 - 50,000. Some local newspapers estimated that up to 100,000 attended. [ [http://english.epochtimes.com/news/6-2-4/37778.html The Epoch Times | Huge Rally Calls for Thai PM's Resignation ] ] [http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/196346/1/.html Channelnewsasia.com ] ] Afterwards, protests waned, with rewer protesters showed up at the Royal Plaza the next weekend. Most Thai newspapers estimated the turnout at 30,000 - 50,000 people. "Phoochatkarn Raiwan" (owned by Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the protest) estimated 100,000 attended. The BBC, Reuters, and AFP estimated 5,000 - 15,000 attended. [ [http://www.2bangkok.com/highfeb112006news.shtml 2Bangkok.com - High tension in Thailand ] ]

The PAD's protests took on an increasingly critical tone in February. In a single protest on 26 February 2006, Buddhist leader Sulak Sivaraksa called Thaksin a pitiful dog and chairman of the northeastern teachers' group Auychai Watha called for Thaksin's children to "become whores infected with venereal disease." The behavior of the protesters was condemned by the Chairperson of Amnesty International's Thailand office. Protestors often harassed journalists and newscrews. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/01/opinion/opinion_20001744.php Non-violence is not simply the absence of physical violence] , 1 March 2006]

Pro-Thaksin demonstrations

On March 3, 2006, a pro-Thaksin rally at Sanam Luang arranged by the TRT party was attended by a massive crowd. Local media reported that up to 200,000 people attended.cite news| url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/04/headlines/headlines_20001979.php| date=2006-03-08| title=PRO-GOVERNMENT RALLY: Thaksin on warpath| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=The Nation] [ [http://www.2bangkok.com/06/mar3rally.shtml 2Bangkok.com - Thaksin's rally at Sanam Luang ] ] Some foreign media reported up to 150,000 attended. In this rally, Thaksin promised that "If my party receive less votes than the number of people abstaining combined with votes for smaller parties, I will not accept the premiership...I beg the three opposition parties, Democrat, Chat Thai and Mahachon, to join the contest. If they really insist on a boycott, they can campaign for voters to mark 'abstention' to reject me". He also promised to amend Article 313 of the Constitution to allow representatives of the people to draft a new charter as occurred in 1974 after the 1973 bloodshed. Some additional laws later would be amended, he said. The whole political reform would take about one year before a referendum to endorse the new charter and another parliament dissolution before a new election. Anti-Thaksin protesters have claimed that most of the attendants were uneducated people who were paid to attend.

Demonstrations before the April election

On March 5, 2006, while Thaksin was campaigning for the April 2006 elections in the rural areas, tens of thousands of protesters in Bangkok, shouting "Thaksin Get Out" and "Restore Power to the King", demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister. The anti-Thaksin rally included the burning of an effigy of him in a mock funeral to cries of "Thaksin out! Thaksin out!" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4775926.stm BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Mass rally against Thailand's PM ] ] [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/03/05/thailand.protests/ CNN.com - Thousands protest against Thai PM - Mar 5, 2006 ] ] It was described as "the biggest anti-government demonstration in Thailand since 1992" in some news reports. [cite web| url=http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-03-05T204237Z_01_BKK198058_RTRUKOC_0_UK-THAILAND-POLITICS.xml&archived=False| title=404 error| publisher=Reuters.co.uk| accessdate=2006-09-21] The protest also included a satirical Chinese opera and performances of anti-Thaksin Lam tad" singing. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/01/headlines/headlines_20001781.php The Art of Sarcasm ] ]

Starting 13 March 2006, anti-Thaksin protests moved to permanent tents and stands outside Government House at the Miskawan Intersection, leading to massive traffic jams in that area. By 5.30 p.m., 18 March 2006, approximately 3,000 were protesting at Government House (source: Thai Rath, 19 March 2005).

On 18 March 2006, Nuansri Rodkhrut, a representative of the Thai Red Cross, met protest-leader Chamlong Srimuang to inform him that protest tents were in space reserved for the 2006 Red Cross Fair. She was roundly booed by protesters. The Red Cross Fair is held annually at the Royal Plaza, Amphorn Gardens, Sri Ayuthaya Road, and the Miskawan Intersection from the end of March to early April. The fair is hosted by the Thai Red Cross Society and was to be attended by Princess Sirindhorn. Chamlong responded "The protest area does not belong to any individual. Our move from Sanam Luang to Government House to kick out PM Thaksin is our job. I have been to the Red Cross Fair since I was a kid, and I don't want to disrupt it. In fact, it is good that the protesters can visit the fair and raise its attendance. Few Fair attendees will visit the area used by the protesters." He suggested to Nuansri that the entrance booth of the Fair be moved 10 meters behind the main stage of the protests. Nuansri responded that she would seek further guidance from her superiors. On the same day, Traffic Police Commander Phanu Kerdlabphon warned that any disruption of Princess Sirindhorn's visit to the Fair would "surely lead to trouble". Chamlong was quoted as saying "If the officers consider it is against the law, then, come and arrest all 100,000 of us here". [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/19/headlines/headlines_20003073.php PAD tells top police it will not budge ] ]

Starting 15 March 2006, Thaksin supporters have moved en-masse to Bangkok from the North and North-east in a caravan of Ee Taen (slow-moving diesel-engine powered farming vehicles), [ [http://www.2bangkok.com/06/mar182006/mar18.shtml 2Bangkok.com - Pro-Thaksin demonstrators at Chatuchak Park ] ] Thai: อีแต๋น). The "Mob Ee Taen" (so called by the Thai press), as of 18 March 2006, numbered thousands of demonstrators in several hundred Ee Taen and had chosen Chatuchak Park, in the north of Bangkok, as its demonstration site.

The farmers were joined by 400 motorcycle taxi drivers, who claim that a Thaksin-initiated crackdown has eliminated the need to make payments to corrupt police and underworld elements. [Source: Thai Rath 19 May]

On 19 March 2006, a group of Thaksin supporters burned a coffin of Apirak Kosayothin, Democrat governor of Bangkok, claiming that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration was trying to force the protesters out of Chatuchak Park, that the BMA would not provide any water, and provided only two mobile toilet buses. Anti-Thaksin protesters have claimed that the Thaksin supporters are uneducated and had been paid to come support Thaksin. [th icon http://tnews.teenee.com/politic/386.html] [th icon http://webboard.mthai.com/5/2006-03-08/206976.html] They have also claimed that it is illegal to drive Ee Taen on city streets. [th icon http://webboard.mthai.com/5/2006-03-15/209920.html]

On the week before the 2006 election, the anti-Thaksin rally moved to Bangkok's shopping districts, with rallies at Bumrungrad International Hospital, The Emporium, and Siam Square. Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Siam Paragon, and many other businesses and office buildings in the protest area were closed, causing up to 1.2 billion baht in losses.cite web| url=http://bangkokpost.net/News/29Mar2006_news00.php| title=404 error| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=Bangkok Post] On 29 March, the BTS skytrain had to shut down service at the Siam intersection station, though the service also reported record ridership as a result of the protest rallies. The protests also caused major traffic jams throughout Bangkok, especially Sukhumvit Road and Silom Road, both major Bangkok arteries. The local press estimated 50,000 protesters, although foreign press and independent observers noted only 5,000 - 30,000. [cite web| url=http://groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.thai/browse_thread/thread/3dafed19f012fd4c/deb1f7c6b0344fbf#deb1f7c6b0344fbf| title=Counting demonstrators| work=soc.culture.thai| accessdate=2006-09-21| publisher=Google Groups] cite web| url=http://groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.thai/browse_thread/thread/137a53e8608e0b14/6c6d083fdab462ee#6c6d083fdab462ee| title=Thaksin faces last pre-poll rally| work=soc.culture.thai| publisher=Google Groups| accessdate=2006-09-21]

The anti-Thaksin protesters were harshly criticized, with 50,000 complaints being made to the FM91 traffic radio station. A poll showed that 71% of Bangkokians disagreed with the protests being moved into the city center. An opinion poll showed that 26% of Bangkok people supported the resignation of Thaksin, compared to 48% three weeks previously. Protest leader Chamlong Srimuang defended the protesters, saying "Two days of traffic jams is a minor matter, but the nation remaining jammed up was a big problem." [cite news| url=http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/30/headlines/headlines_30000538.php| title=Two rallies plus two fairs equals gridlock| publisher=The Nation| date=2006-03-30| accessdate=2006-09-21]

Planning for the coup

Planning for the coup started in approximately February 2006 and continued in secret during the subsequent crisis. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/10/02/opinion/opinion_30015127.php The persistent myth of the 'good' coup] , 2 October 2006] [กรุงเทพธุรกิจ, [http://news.sanook.com/politic/politic_21938.php พล.ท.สพรั่ง กัลยาณมิตร"วางแผนปฏิรูปการปกครองมาแล้ว 7-8 เดือน"] , 24 September 2006] [Thanapol Eawsakul, "The Coup for Democracy with the King as Head of State", Fa Dieo Kan special issue, 2007] Rumours about unrest in the armed forces and possible coup plots unfurled for months leading to the coup. In May 2006, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin issued assurances that the military would not seize power. On 20 July 2006, around a hundred middle-ranking army officers said to be supporters of Thaksin were reassigned by the army high command, fuelling rumours that the army was divided between supporters and opponents of the prime minister. In July 2006, 3rd Army Area Commander Saprang Kalayanamitr gave an interview where he stated that Thai politics was below standard and that the Kingdom's leadership was weak. He also claimed that Thailand had a false democracy. [คมชัดลึก, [มทภ.3ชี้ชาติไร้ผู้นำ ตท.10ย้ำชัดไม่ยึดอำนาจ] , 19 July 2006] In August 2006, there were reports of tank movements near Bangkok, but the military attributed these to a scheduled exercise. [ [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/68906b70-4806-11db-a42e-0000779e2340.html Timeline: From contested elections to military coup] , "Financial Times", 2006-09-19] In early September, Thai police arrested five army officers, all members of Thailand's counter-insurgency command, after intercepting one of the officers with a bomb in a car allegedly targeting the prime minister's residence. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5324172.stm Thai arrests over Thaksin 'plot'] , BBC News, 2006-09-07] Three of the suspects were released after the coup.The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/09/30/headlines/headlines_30015051.php Car-bomb suspects get bail] , 30 September 2006]

In December 2006, former National Security Council head Prasong Soonsiri claimed that he and five other senior military figures had been planning a coup as early as July. He claimed that Sonthi was one of those figures, but that Surayud and Prem were not involved at the time.Asia Times, [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/HL22Ae01.html Grumbles, revelations of a Thai coup maker] , 22 December 2006]

Impeachment attempts

wikinewshas|News on Thaksin Shinawatra

* April 5, 2006
* April 4, 2006
* April 2, 2006
* March 28, 2006
* March 28, 2006
* March 23, 2006
* March 6, 2006
* . February 26, 2006
* . February 24, 2006
* . February 20, 2006
* . February 16, 2006
* . January 14,2006
* . November 17, 2005
* . October 27, 2005
* . October 12, 2005

In February 2006, 28 senators submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court calling for the Prime Minister's impeachment for conflicts of interest and improprieties in the sell-off of Shin Corporation under Articles 96, 216 and 209 of the Thai constitution. [cite web| url=http://www.concourt.or.th/concourt/eng/contents/Constitution%20of%20the%20Kingdom%20of%20Thailand.pdf| format=PDF| accessdate=2006-09-21| title=Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand] The senators said the Prime Minister violated the Constitution and was no longer qualified for office under Article 209. However, the Court rejected the petition on 16 February, with the majority judges saying the petition failed to present sufficient grounds to support the prime minister's alleged misconduct. [cite news| url=http://etna.mcot.net/query.php?nid=6718| publisher=MCOT News| title=Paralympians Return Home| accessdate=2006-09-21]

Another impeachment attempt was made by the Thai university students network, led by Thammasat University students. A petition was launched to impeach Thaksin via the Senate. As of 27 February 2006, over 50,000 people signed the petition. This exceeded the minimum number required by the Constitution in order to launch the bid.

House dissolution and the April 2006 Legislative Election

House dissolution

Thaksin announced a House dissolution on 24 February 2006, in a bid to defuse the political crisis triggered by his family’s sale of Shin Corporation. General elections were scheduled for 2 April. In his weekly radio address following the announcement of his decision, Thaksin promised a series of new populist measures, including pay rises for government workers, an increase in the minimum wage and debt relief for farmers. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4749784.stm BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Thai premier unveils new policies ] ] The opposition Democrat, Chart Thai and Mahachon parties announced a boycott of the election on 27 February. [http://bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=82074]

"The Nation" criticized Thaksin for calling for parliamentary elections. In an editorial, it noted that the election "fails to take into consideration a major fallacy of the concept, particularly in a less-developed democracy like ours, in which the impoverished, poorly informed masses are easily manipulated by people of his ilk. And Thaksin's manipulation has been well documented. It includes an ingenious use of populist policies that pander to the unprincipled wants and needs of the people." [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/21/opinion/opinion_20003175.php Democracy put to the ultimate test ] ]

Demand for royal intervention

On March 24, 2006, in front of a rally of 50,000 at Sanam Luang,cite news| url=http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/26/headlines/headlines_30000239.php| title=Prem stays silent on Democrats' latest call| date=2006-03-27| publisher=The Nation| accessdate=2006-09-21] Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded that King Bhumibol Adulyadej appoint a new Prime Minister and Cabinet to resolve the political crisis. [http://news.inq7.net/breaking/index.php?index=3&story_id=70470] cite web| url=http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/25Mar2006_news01.php| title=404 error| publisher=bangkokpost.com| accessdate=2006-09-21] The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD), The Law Society of Thailand, and the Press Council of Thailand also called for royal intervention. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/26/headlines/headlines_30000238.php King the only hope for end to deadlock, say PAD protesters ] ] [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/19/national/national_20003066.php Replace PM, professionals urge Palace ] ] Pongsak Payakavichien, of the Press Council, also called on the civil service to detach itself from the government and demand royal intervention.

However, demands for royal intervention have met with much criticism. The King himself in speeches on 26 April to newly appointed judges dismissed the notion, saying Article 7 of the Constitution invoked by the anti-Thaksin protestors did not give him that power. "Asking for a Royally appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational." [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/27/headlines/headlines_30002592.php HM the King's April 26 speeches (unofficial translation) ] ] Vorajet Phakheerat, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, noted "We're trying to involve the monarch in politics, but it's still not time. If we appeal for a new prime minister, aren't we asking the monarch to take sides?" Passakorn Atthasit and 20 relatives of people killed in the October 1973 democracy uprising tied a black cloth around the Democracy Monument and said "We don't care if Mr. Thaksin remains in the post. All we care is that the prime minister is elected. Asking for a royally-bestowed prime minister is akin to ripping the charter apart."

April 2006 House election results

Unofficial results as of 3 April 2006 gave Thaksin's TRT Party victory, with 462 seats in Parliament and 66% of the popular vote. However, 38 TRT candidates, all in the Democrat-dominated south, failed to win up to 20% of votes from eligible voters in their constituency, thus forcing the Election Commission to hold by-elections [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/03/headlines/headlines_30000858.php 38 one-horse candidates fail ] ] on April 23.cite news| url=http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30000955| title=Second round of elections be held on April 23| publisher=The Nation| accessdate=2006-09-21] Election Commission commissioner Prinya Nakchudtree said that election laws would allow new applications in the April 23 by-elections, allowing the Democrat Party (which had boycotted the April 3 elections) to run in the by-elections. However, the Democrat Party has vowed to boycott the by-elections [cite web| url=http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-04-07T083105Z_01_BKK199695_RTRUKOC_0_US-THAILAND.xml| title=404 error| publisher=Reuters.com| accessdate=2006-09-21] and has petitioned the Central Administrative Court to cancel the by-elections. [cite news| url=http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30001232| title=Democrat executive asks court to cancel 2nd round of election| publisher=The Nation| accessdate=2006-09-21] Many expect that this will prevent Parliament from reconvening and a Government from forming within the 3 May time-limit set by the Constitution.cite news| url=http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/04/07/thailand.politics/| title= Thai rally toasts Thaksin's exit| date=2006-04-07| publisher=CNN.com| accessdate=2006-09-21]

Thaksin unofficially claimed that TRT won 16 million votes nationwide, with 10 million abstentions and invalid ballots, giving him greater than half of the popular vote. [cite news| url=http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30000870| title=Thai Rak Thai win 16 million votes : Thaksin| publisher=The Nation| accessdate=2006-09-21] Thaksin had earlier promised to not accept the premiership if he received less than half the total vote.

In Bangkok, despite a large number of abstentions, TRT won in every district with ืnot much more than 20% of votes. Out of 2,329,294 Bangkok votes counted as of 22.31 hrs on 3 April 2006, TRT won 1,035,254 votes, the remainder being abstentions and invalid ballots. [cite web| url=http://groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.thai/browse_thread/thread/9fa3469c052d6405/9b32ab390608b796#9b32ab390608b796| title=TRT sweeps Bangkok - no district less than 27%| work=soc.culture.thai| date=2006-04-03| publisher=Google Groups| accessdate=2006-09-21] [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/election/ The Nation: Election 2006 ] ] [http://www.matichon.co.th/breaking-news/breaking-news.php?nid=20060403-133310]

After unofficial voting tallies became public, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) petitioned the Administrative Court to suspend the results of the election. Chamlong Srimuang declared that the PAD would ignore the results of the election and that the "PAD will go on rallying until Thaksin resigns and Thailand gets a royally-appointed prime minister." [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30000759 Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ]

After the 2006 election

Thaksin proposes reconciliatory panel

On 3 April 2006, Thaksin Shinawatra appeared on television to declare victory in the controversial 2006 election, called for unity in the kingdom, reiterated his proposal for a government of national unity, and proposed the creation of an independent reconciliatory commission to end the political stalemate. He offered to resign if the new panel recommended it. The commission could consist of three former parliament presidents, three Supreme Court presidents, three former prime ministers and rectors of state universities. He also suggested that four potential candidates from the TRT could replace him if he stepped down, including former House Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula and caretaker Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/04/headlines/headlines_30000930.php Thaksin's 'victory' declaration ] ] [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/04/world/asia/04thailand.html Thailand Leader Cushions Claim of Ballot Victory - New York Times ] ] [ [http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/04/03/thailand.polls/ CNN.com - Thai leader claims victory - Apr 3, 2006 ] ]

The Democrat Party and the PAD immediately rejected the reconciliation panel. "It's too late for national reconciliation," said Chamlong Srimuang.cite news| url=http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/201527/1/.html| title=Thai PM Thaksin says he'll step down| date=2006-04-04| publisher= Channel NewsAsia| accessdate=2006-09-21] The PAD claimed that once again Thaksin was using votes to justify himself, and called for a nation-wide protest on Friday 7 April to force the Prime Minister to resign. [http://bangkokpost.net/News/04Apr2006_news01.php] [http://bangkokpost.net/News/04Apr2006_news04.php]

Thaksin steps down

After an audience with King Bhumipol, Thaksin announced on April 4, 2006 that he would not accept the post of Prime Minister after the Parliament reconvenes. However, he would continue to be Caretaker Prime Minister until his successor is elected by the Parliament.

"My main reason for not accepting the post of prime minister is because this year is an auspicious year for the king, whose 60th anniversary on the throne is just 60 days away… I want all Thais to reunite," said Thaksin in a nationally televised speech. [http://bangkokpost.net/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=89047] [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/04/04/headlines/headlines_30000957.php I will not accept post of premier in the next government : Thaksin ] ] He then delegated his functions to Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, moved out of Government House, and scheduled a vacation with his family.

The Democrat Party welcomed the decision and promised to cooperate to resolve the current political crisis. However, they continued their boycott of by-elections. Many expected that the boycott would prevent Parliament from reconvening and a Government from forming within the 3 May time-limit set by the Constitution — thus causing a constitutional crisis. In a celebration at Sanam Luang on 7 April, PAD leaders announced that their new goal was the eradication of the Thaksin "regime". [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30001271 Bangkok's Independent Newspaper ] ] Some have noted that a constitutional crisis, the lack of a government, and continued protests could spoil King Bhumipol Adulyadej's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations on 9 June. [cite web| url= http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-04-07T083105Z_01_BKK199695_RTRUKOC_0_US-THAILAND.xml| title=404 error| publisher=today.reuters.com| accessdate=2006-09-21] [cite news| url=http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/04/06/opinion/edvatik.php| title= In Thailand, a silk revolution| first=Michael| last= Vatikiotis| publisher= International Herald Tribune| date=2006-04-07| accessdate=2006-09-21] [cite news| url=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,18748128-2703,00.html| title=Democrat spanner in Thaksin succession| publisher=The Australian| accessdate=2006-09-21 (no longer available at this URL)] [cite web| url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/06/AR2006040602481_3.html| title=404 error| publisher=Washingtonpost.com| accessdate=2006-09-21] Finally, His Majesty the interceded to help restore peace and calm amid growing protests and threats of widespread violence between opposing parties in the national debate by declaring the elections undemocratic. Authorities then voided the Thaksin landslide election, and on 19 September 2006, staged a military coup. There were many theories regarding the exact reasons for the coup. One certainly was prevention of bloodshed. However, even more important perhaps was the prevention of pro-Thaksin interests from making further inroads into what many viewed as challenges to the Thai monarchy by replacing it through a series of moves that would gradually totally remove the revered monarch from any decision making ability in relation to government.

Removal of the Election Commission

In a rare, televised speech to senior judges, King Bhumibol requested that the judiciary take action to resolve the political crisis.cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://www.asiaviews.org/?content=153499ym32dddw4&headline=20060706003624 | title = Group of women of royal descent calls on Thaksin to name "charismatic figure" | format = | work = | publisher = Bangkok Post | accessdate = 09 July | accessyear = 2006] On 8 May 2006, the Constitution Court invalidated the results of the April elections and ordered a new round of elections, later set for October elections. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/05/08/headlines/headlines_30003512.php | title = Constitution Court invalidate the April election and order new election | format = | work = | publisher = The Nation | accessdate = 05 July | accessyear = 2006] Several judges also called for three members of the Election Commission to resign. The Commissioners refused to do so, citing their constitutional independence. Several legal experts including Vorachet Phakeerat and Banjerd Singkanet of Thammasat University noted the unprecedented nature of the judiciary's demands. "I'm concerned that if the courts get too involved in political affairs, politics may hit back. Moreover, it's difficult to examine the courts, and who is to examine the courts' use of power in politics," said Vorachet. [Public Relations Department of Thailand, [http://www.parliament.go.th/news/news_detail.php?prid=4712 Judges call for EC to step aside] ] When the Commissioners still refused to resign, the Criminal Court jailed the Election Commissioners, removing them from their posts. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/07/25/headlines/headlines_30009521.php | title = EC Commissioners arrive at Bangkok Remand Prison | format = | work = | publisher = The Nation | accessdate = 25 July | accessyear = 2006] [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | year = | url = http://bangkokpost.net/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=111195 | title = EC Guilty in Historic Ruling | format = | work = | publisher = Bangkok Post | accessdate = 25 July | accessyear = 2006]

Thaksin returned to work on 19 May 2006, in the wake of the Constitutional Court's nullification of the April elections and catastrophic flooding in the North. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.news.php?clid=35&id=30004426 The Nation, Thaksin back from "leave", 19 May 2006] ] However, political tension remained high. On 22 May, Pairoj Vongvipanon, former dean of the Faculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University, warned Thaksin of assassination: "Thaksin must be careful or else he might be killed. Don't think that assassinations can not occur in Thailand. [ [http://www.komchadluek.net/news/2006/05-22/p1--71070.html (Thai) Khom Chad Luek newspaper, "Academic warns Thaksin that politics has reached boiling point. Beware of assassinations." (นักวิชาการเตือน"ทักษิณ" การเมืองระอุระวังลอบฆ่า), 22 May 2006] ] "

The "Finland Plan" and the "charismatic individual"

On the eve of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 60th anniversary celebrations, the Manager newspaper and website published several articles on the "Finland Plan", [ [http://www.manager.co.th/Daily/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000063603 Manager Online, ปฏิญญาฟินแลนด์ ยุทธศาสตร์ทักษิณ (Finland Plan — Thaksin's Strategy), 15 May 2006] ] [ [http://www.manager.co.th/Daily/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000060356 Manager Online, ชาติ ศาสนา พระมหากษัตริย์และ… ปฏิญญาฟินแลนด์ (Nation, Religion, the Monarchy, and… the Finland Plan), 8 May 2006] ] [ [http://www.manager.co.th/Daily/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000065158 Manager Online, ยุทธศาสตร์ฟินแลนด์: แผนเปลี่ยนการปกครองไทย? (The Finland Strategy: A plan to change the system of Thai government?), 18 May 2006] ] [ [http://www.thaiinsider.com/ShowNews.php?Link=News/Inside-akeyuth/2006-05-19/19-29.htm Thailand Insider, ยุทธการท้าทายอำนาจ (Strategy to challenge power), 19 May 2006] ] an alleged conspiracy designed by Thaksin and other Thai Rak Thai co-founders aimed at overthrowing the King and seizing control of the country. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/05/25/politics/politics_30004843.php Nation Multimedia] ] [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=46305 Asia Media] ] [ [http://bangkokpost.net/News/22May2006_news04.php Bangkok Post, TRT goes on offensive over 'Finland Plan', 22 May 2006] ] Democrat Party deputy secretary-general Thaworn Senniam (Thai: ถาวร เสนเนียม) commented that the Finland Plan was "obviously true". [ [http://www.manager.co.th/Politics/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000066516 Politics - Manager Online ] ] In retaliation, Thaksin and TRT sued the owner of the Manager daily Sondhi Limthongkul, its editor, a columnist and two executives for libel. [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=46976 AsiaMedia :: THAILAND: Manager sued for articles on 'Finland plot' ] ]

On 29 June 2006, Thaksin noted that the political crisis was aggravated "because charismatic people and some organisations outside those sanctioned by the Constitution are trying to overthrow the government, rules and laws, Constitution and democracy." [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/07/04/politics/politics_30007953.php The Nation, Sondhi files complaint over PM's ouster claim, 4 July 2006] ] This provoked speculation by many, including several members of the royal family,cite web | url =http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30007895 | title = Group of women of royal descent calls on Thaksin to name "charismatic figure" | publisher = The Nation | accessdate = 09 July | accessyear = 2006] that Thaksin was referring to either King Bhumibol or Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda. Sondhi Limthongkul called for the public to take a stand and choose between the King and Thaksin.cite web | url = http://www.asiaviews.org/?content=153499ym32dddw4&headline=20060706003624 | title = Sondhi lashed for 'take a stand' dare | publisher = Bangkok Post | accessdate = 09 July | accessyear = 2006| date=2006-07-06]

August 2006 attempted car bombing

On 24 August 2006, a car containing 67 kilograms of explosives was stopped near Thaksin's residence in Thonburi. Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner Lt-General Wiroj Jantharangsee noted that the explosives in the car were completely assembled, equipped with a remote unit sensor and ready to be detonated, and would have a blast radius of around one kilometre. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/25/headlines/headlines_30011945.php The Nation, 'Bomb plot to kill Thaksin foiled', questions linger, 25 August 2006] ] Pol Major Kamthorn Ooycharoen, head of the police bomb-disposal squad at the scene, also noted that the bomb was live and ready for detonation. [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/26/politics/politics_30012040.php The Nation, "Explosives 'live and ready for detonation'", 26 August 2006] ] The bomb was composed of sticks TNT, M-8 military fuses, TNT, C4 plastic explosives, a remote control unit, and nine plastic containers containing ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO). [ [http://bangkokpost.net/News/25Aug2006_news04.php Bangkok Post, "A controversial figure", 25 August 2006] ] The car was driven by Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, former personal chauffeur of Pallop Pinmanee, Deputy Director of Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC). Police found that the car had left ISOC headquarters earlier that morning. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/25/headlines/headlines_30012002.php It is not a hoax : police spokesman] , 25 August 2006] Thawatchai was immediately arrested and Pallop was released from his position.

Pallop denied all involvement, noting that "If had wanted to do it, I would have done it more subtly...In my career, I have led death squads. If I had wanted to kill him, the Prime Minister would not have escaped." [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/25/national/national_30011902.php The Nation, 'If I was behind it, PM would be dead', 25 August 2006, Retrieved 25 August 2006] [ [http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=112432 Bangkok Post, "Thaksin escapes bomb, fires Gen Panlop", 25 August 2006] ] [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30011881 The Nation, "Army officer arrested in alleged car bomb attempt is Pallop's driver: police", 25 August 2006] ] He also claimed that "the explosives were being transported, they were not assembled to be detonated." [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/25/national/national_30011902.php The Nation, "'If I was behind it, PM would be dead'", 25 August 2006] ] Government critics claimed that the car bomb was a government conspiracy. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/25/politics/politics_30011904.php 'Car bomb' a govt ploy, ex-security chief alleges] , 25 August 2006] Five army officers were later arrested for their role in the plot. [BBC, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5324172.stm Thai arrests over Thaksin 'plot'] , 7 September 2006] Lt-General Pirach Swamivat, a schoolmate of Pallop's at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, said he believed that Pallop had been framed. He said it might have something to do with Pallop having sent his men to guard Maj-General Chamlong Srimuang, another Culachomklao schoolmate, who has become critical of Thaksin and is a leader of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy.Three officers, including Thawatchai, were released after the military overthrew the Thaksin government.

eptember 2006 coup d'état

The ongoing political crisis escalated drastically on September 19, 2006 when Thai Army units loyal to the army chief of staff, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, staged a coup attempt in Bangkok to unseat Thaksin while he was attending a meeting of the United Nations in New York City.

In a statement, the military Democratic Reform Council cited the government's alleged lèse majesté, interference with state agencies, and creation of social divisions as reasons for the coup. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/09/20/headlines/headlines_30014072.php Statement from the military reformist] , 20 September 2006.] The allegations, however, failed to be pursued seriously, except for charges of corruption in which Thaksin, family and associates were identified by name and criminal offense in court documents. The lèse majesté charge, in fact, was somewhat confused by 2008 accusations by Thai courts that Sondhi Limthongkul, media barron and former associate-turned foe of Thaksin had induced Thai people to believe that there were pro and con-monarchy groups in Thailand. The charge seems spurious and an attempt, some believe, to reduce the negative image of Thaksin among royalists.

See also

* List of Prime Ministers of Thailand
* Thaksin Shinawatra
* [http://www.concourt.or.th/concourt/eng/contents/Constitution%20of%20the%20Kingdom%20of%20Thailand.pdf Thai Constitution]
* Censorship in Thailand

Notes


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