Idiot's Guide to the Protests in Thailand

A clear, concise explainer on the news.

December 3, 2013, 10:57 AM

Dec. 3, 2013— -- So Thailand's been in the news a lot lately. I don't know anything about Thailand. What's up?

You really don't know anything? Then we'll have to start at the beginning. Back in 1939...

Hold it. I don't want a history lesson. What's the news?

Oh right, the news. Well, protesters want the current prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down, so they started holding demonstrations in late November. They tried to get into the prime minister's office building and the police station in Bangkok. There were clashes with the police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas to try and disperse them. Four people died and more than 200 were injured.

Wow. Why don't they like Shinawatra? Hey, doesn't that sort of sound like Sinatra?

I guess so. Shinawatra has been a controversial figure because her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is a zillionaire who was accused of corruption and run out of the country after a coup in 2006. Some Thai residents think she is just a puppet for him. He lives in exile in Dubai, and they've accused her of being his proxy. There are even stories of him running government meetings by phone.

Two Sinatras? A coup?! Wow.

No, no Sinatras. Two Shinawatras.


Earlier this year, current Prime Minister Shinawatra's party introduced an amnesty bill to the legislature which her opponents feared would allow Thaksin Shinawatra to come back to the country and resume power. So they began protesting in November.

Does anyone support the Shinawatras?

Yes. In fact, most of the Shinawatras supporters are rural Thai folks and in the past their demonstrations have been even larger. But they have not taken to the streets recently. The city residents in Bangkok mainly support the opposition Democratic party.

So how big were the protests?

About 100,000 people protested in Bangkok at the beginning of the rallies, on Nov. 24. The number has dwindled since then.

Is it dangerous?

Actually, it's become a lot less dangerous in recent days. On Monday, Prime Minister Shinawatra ordered the police to allowed demonstrators into her office building and the police station if they wanted to. Many of them flooded onto the buildings' lawns, celebrated and took selfies, but there were no violent clashes. Police handed out roses. The prime minister hopes the situation will continue to deescalate.

What do the protesters want? Can it happen?

They want the democratically-elected Shinawatra to hand over power to an unelected council, who will then choose the country's new leaders. She's not playing ball on that one. She told protesters she'd work with them to reach a peaceful end to protests, but would not be stepping down.

Got it. Hey, thanks, that was pretty useful.

No problem. Check out the rest of Lots of useful stuff.

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