Sunday, April 12, 2009

Democracy under attack: Thailand cracks down on anti-government protesters

Monday's move by Thailand's government to crack down on weeks of anti-government protests in Bangkok was probably inevitable but is nevertheless disheartening. The army has begun shooting at protesters in an effort quell protests in Bangkok, the capital, where tens of thousands of protesters gathered Sunday night in support of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, according to the Reuters international news service. Thaksin, a populist, was forced out in a 2006 coup, the 18th coup on Thailand since 1932. Current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was elected by lawmakers in December after Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat, who had succeeded Thaksin, was forced out of office, has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, Reuters said. Protesters in the southern resort town of Pattaya, who claim Aghisit was democratically elected, disrupted Saturday's Asian summit, forcing some regional leaders to flee by helicopter. Thaksin urged on the protesters by telling supporters by telephone that Sunday was a 'golden time' to revolt against the government, Reuters said. Abhisit discounted talk of another coup, saying the military still supported his government. But Thaksin, a populist elected in 2001 on a platform of universal healthcare and cash payouts to peasants, urged "the people to come out for a revolution." Thaksin was convicted of corruption and went into exile after being convicted of corruption. Somchai was forced out after a week of protests by the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy, a group composed of members of Thailand's traditional ruling class. Thailand's Constitutional Court then ordered Somchai's party disbanded and barred him from office for five years.

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