Thailand. After a tumultuous political year in 2008 – for or against the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – the newly elected government led by the Democratic Party strengthened its position in the general election in January. However, no real stability existed. During a week in March, so many Thaksin supporters outside the Bangkok government offices demonstrated that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva could not enter his office. In early April, the government was embarrassed for the entire world when protesters stopped a summit within the Southeast Asian organization ASEAN at the seaside resort of Pattaya. Protesters entered the conference hotel and the visiting heads of state and government were forced to take their seat with the help of helicopters. According to countryaah, the protests then continued in Bangkok, where street battles were fought between riot police and protesters for a day. The Thaksin loyalists’ opponents, loosely gathered in the People’s Alliance for Democracy, announced in June that they would formalize their cooperation by forming a new party called New Politics.
A little in the shadow of the demonstrations in Bangkok, the conflict in the Muslim-dominated southern provinces continued, albeit on a relatively small scale. An attack on a mosque in June, when ten Muslims were killed during a prayer time, was followed by a series of assaults that demanded at least three casualties.
The Thai monarchy was also unusually high on the eyes, not least when 81-year-old King Bhumibol was hospitalized for a month in the fall. During the year, the government tightened its compliance with the already strict ban on criticism of the royal family. The loud protests against the government also included criticism of the military, which was considered to support the government, and by extension indirect criticism of the king, who often turned out to be on the military side. The government banned thousands of Internet sites that were believed to bring criticism of the monarchy, and the public was invited to comment on royal critics. The editor of one of Thailand’s dominant political Internet sites was arrested by police and charged with having disseminated information that threatened the security of the nation.
In December, some 4,000 members of the hmong ethnic group were deported to Laos, from where they moved after the war in the 1970s. The rejection was carried out despite appeals from, among others, the UN, who feared for their safety in the old homeland where hmong is collectively regarded as traitors because during the war they took a stand for the United States.
The March 2000 election to elect senators by direct election was marked by a host of irregularities. The Electoral Commission discarded 78 of the 200 elected senators who were accused of corruption and fraud. Two of the rejected senators were wives of the Minister of the Interior and Justice respectively. It was the first time that senators were elected by direct elections.
The party Phak Thai Rak Thai (Thais who love Thais, TRT) won the parliamentary elections in January 2001, but did not get an absolute majority. It is led by media mogul Thaksin Shinawatra, who had to settle for 248 of the 500 seats in the elections. Although the election was conducted within the framework of a new constitution designed to reduce the possibility of electoral fraud, accusations of irregularities nevertheless led to the election commission moving the election into 62 districts. In February, parliament elected Shinawatra as new prime minister.
In early 2001, Thai and Burmese forces clashed at the border at Mae Sai-Tachilek, and both countries mutually accused each other of supporting opium-producing militias. Shinawatra had made the fight against drug production and trafficking a top priority for his government, and in May tensions escalated as a result of the presence of more and more North American special forces along the Myanmar border. Their task was to officially train Thai forces in the fight against drug trafficking. In the same month, 20,000 soldiers from the United States and Thailand conducted an annual military exercise not far from the border with Myanmar. In June, Shinawatra traveled to Rangoon to discuss the border problems after the Mae Sai-Tachilek border crossing was reopened.
In August, Shinawatra was acquitted by the Constitutional Court. In December 2000, a subpoena delivered a verdict opposing him. The reason was that he had not given up all parts of his huge fortune when in 1997 he was vice prime minister. If the Constitutional Court had sentenced him, he would have been prevented from engaging in political activities for the following 5 years.
The processing of gems and jewelery suffered a serious setback in early 2002. The US market, which represented 50% of world consumption, collapsed following the terrorist attack on New York in September 2001. For Thailand, which is one of the world’s largest producers, the consequences were very severe. By March 2002, the setback had cost 200,000 jobs.
In tripartite negotiations in India, Thailand and Myanmar agreed in April 2002 on a plan to repatriate ½ million Myanmar illegal immigrants in Thailand. As part of the agreement, all illegal immigrants had to undergo an HIV test. The immigrants who were tested for HIV positive must be separated from the other immigrants and repatriated as part of a special plan.
In July 2003, Thailand repaid loans to the IMF 2 years ahead of time. At the beginning of the year, Shinawatra reopened the war on drugs. Over the following 3 months, 2,500 people suspected of drug trafficking died. According to critics, there was an explosion in the number of murders.