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Thailand protests: 5 things you need to know

Published on Jan 22, 2014 6:59 PM
 

What started the protests?

The protests started in November last year after the lower house of parliament passed an amnesty bill sponsored by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Peua Thai party Critics said this could allow her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, to return without serving time in jail. Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and now lives in a self-imposed exile in Dubai after being convicted of corruption.

The anti-government tensions failed to defuse even after the Senate rejected the amnesty bill.

Who are the protesters?

Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they block the street in front of the Department of Civil Aviation during rally in Bangkok on Jan 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

They are a mix of royalists, students, civil servants, the urban middle-class, as well as supporters of the opposition Democrat party who have travelled to Bangkok from various provinces.

The protests are coordinated by People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), a movement led by 64-year-old Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, and supported by Democrat party led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister. Democrat legislators quit Parliament en masse in December to join the rallies.

What do the protesters want?

They want to eliminate what they describe as the "Thaksin regime" and install an unelected "people's council" to pick the country's leaders. They want sweeping reforms before a return to electoral democracy.

The Democratic Party is boycotting the election on Feb 2 and PDRC activists have derailed the registration of candidates in 28 constituencies in the south, where the Democrats have wide support.

What is a state of emergency?

The government issued an emergency decree on Jan 21 to rein in the turmoil. It applies to Bangkok and its surrounds, and is effective for 60 days, a period which includes the Feb 2 election. It grants security agencies the power to censor the media, impose curfews, detain suspects without charge and also forbid entry into certain areas.

What has been the impact so far?

Nine people have died and dozens have been wounded. There have also been two grenade attacks in Bangkok. The prolonged political unrest, which is taking place in Thailand's peak tourist season, also looks likely to take its toll on the economic recovery. Weak consumer confidence, sluggish domestic spending and slow export recovery had made its economy vulnerable even before the anti-government protests started from late last year. Analysts warn that the impact this time round could be more severe because the economy is on a downward momentum.

Protests in 2008 and 2010 hit the economy hard especially the business and tourism sectors.

 

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