Key dates in Thailand’s political crisis
Thailand’s political crisis has involved years of political and street battles between supporters and opponents of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Some key dates:
— Sept. 19. The army topples Shinawatra in a bloodless coup while he is overseas. The takeover follows months of protests led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy, known as the “Yellow Shirts,” who accused Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power.
— December: The People’s Power Party, a proxy for Thaksin’s disbanded Thai Rak Thai party, easily wins elections under a new constitution drafted by Thaksin’s foes, and later chooses veteran politician Samak Sundaravej as prime minister.
— May: The Yellow Shirts launch protests against Samak, accusing him of being Thaksin’s puppet.
— August: Thousands of Yellow Shirts take over the prime minister’s office compound and stay for three months.
— September: Samak is removed from office after a court rules his appearance on a TV cooking show constituted conflict of interest. Parliament elects Somchai Wongsawat — Thaksin’s brother-in-law — as his successor. Protesters call him the ousted leader’s puppet.
— October: The Supreme Court convicts Thaksin in absentia of corruption, sentencing him to two years in prison. Thaksin had fled to Britain two months earlier.
— November: Yellow Shirt protesters take over Bangkok’s two airports, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers for a week.
— December: Protesters vacate the airports and the prime minister’s office after a court finds Somchai’s party guilty of electoral fraud and dissolves it. With the military’s backing and wheeling and dealing in Parliament, opposition Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is chosen prime minister.
— April: Pro-Thaksin “Red Shirt” demonstrators swarm a regional summit in Pattaya, forcing the evacuation of Asian leaders. Several days later, demonstrators riot in Bangkok, leaving two people dead before the army restores order.
— March: Pro-Thaksin Red Shirt protesters pour into Bangkok in a bid to drive Abhisit from power, kicking off weeks of protests that shut down parts of the city. Mysterious armed “men-in-black” serve as a militia for the protesters.
— May: Soldiers storm the demonstrators’ camp, ending the protest. More than 90 die and around 1,800 are wounded during the weeks of protests, mostly demonstrators.
— July: The Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai party wins election by a landslide. Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, becomes Thailand’s first female prime minister.
— June: Protesters and the Democrat Party seek to block a government bill to seek reconciliation through changing the constitution, fearing it is designed to facilitate Thaksin’s return from exile without punishment.
— July: The Constitutional Court rules that the bill was procedurally flawed, and cannot be passed as drafted.
— December: Former Prime Minister Abhisit and his deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, are charged with murder for approving the May 2010 crackdown on Red Shirt protesters.
— August: The government introduces an amnesty bill covering political offenders since the 2006 coup, but excluding leaders. The bill is met by minor street protests and passes its first reading in the lower house.
— Nov. 1: The house passes a second reading of the amnesty bill, which was amended to include political leaders and cover Thaksin. Democrat lawmakers walk out and public anger builds. The anti-Thaksin movement quickly gains strength, and the government instructs its allies in the Senate to vote against the bill, killing it for at least six months.
— Nov. 20: The Constitutional Court says ruling party lawmakers acted illegally in passing another bill to amend the constitution, bolstering the morale of Thaksin’s opponents.
—Nov. 24: Anti-government rallies in Bangkok draw well over 100,000 people. Suthep resigns from the Democrat Party to lead protests.
— Nov. 25: Tens of thousands of hardcore opponents besiege several government ministries and offices.
— Nov. 26: Suthep demands that the government be dissolved and an unelected “people’s council” be established to administer the country and pick a new leader. Protesters say they want to eliminate all vestiges of Thaksin’s political machine.
— Nov. 30: Red Shirts begin a pro-government rally at a stadium across Bangkok from the anti-Thaksin protests, but violence breaks out after they are attacked, leaving at least four people dead and dozens hurt.
— Dec. 1: Protesters fail to attain their declared “victory day” goal of seizing the prime minister’s offices and police headquarters. Heavy street fighting continues the next day.
— Dec. 3: Police withdraw from their defensive positions, allowing protesters to make a symbolic occupation of the Bangkok police headquarters and prime minister’s offices. The government says it sought to avoid further violence ahead of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday on Dec. 5. Suthep tells supporters they have achieved a partial victory but must continue their struggle to change Thailand’s political system.