Thailand's turbulent political history

Voters waiting at a polling station at the Bangkok Thawiwit School, on March 24, 2019. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

BANGKOK (AFP) - Violent demonstrations, multiple coups and a cryptic election eve message from the King.

Thailand's unpredictable political history has few rivals.

The country's election on Sunday (March 24) is the first since a 2014 coup.

Here is a brief look at two turbulent decades in Thai politics.

'LOST DECADE'

2001 - Policeman-turned-billionaire telecoms magnate Thaksin Shinawatra wins at the polls promising social welfare schemes.

2003 - A brutal war on drugs kills upwards of 2,500 people. A year later, a crackdown in the Muslim-majority Deep South sparks a renewed insurgency.

2005 - Thaksin repeats electoral triumph, heading up the first civilian administration to complete a four-year term in a history rattled by army takeovers.

2006 - While at the United Nations in New York, Thaksin is toppled in bloodless coup. A period of protests and violent clashes ensues and historians dub the prolonged instability the "Lost Decade".

YELLOW AND RED

2008 - Thaksin is convicted in absentia on corruption charges that he says are politically motivated, and flees into self-exile.

Anti-Thaksin protesters known as "Yellow Shirts" storm Bangkok's airports, shutting them down for over a week to protest against the installation of a Thaksin ally as premier - who is soon removed.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva becomes prime minister after a parliamentary vote.

2009 - Pro-Thaksin "Red Shirts" storm a regional summit hosted by Thailand demanding elections and forcing participants to flee by helicopter and boat.

2010 - More than 90 people are killed as the army - led by current junta leader Prayut Chan-o-Cha - opens fire on Red Shirts protesting in downtown Bangkok.

2011 - Fresh elections in 2011 see Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck emerge as Thailand's first female prime minister.

2014 - Anti-Yingluck demonstrators hold months-long protests that turn violent. A snap 2014 election is annulled and the military seizes power.

JUNTA DELAYS, HOLDS VOTE

2016 - Junta leader Prayut oversees a crackdown on dissent and wins a referendum to change the Constitution.

Thailand mourns the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was seen as a figure of unity over a seven-decade reign.

2017 - Yingluck flees the country to avoid negligence charges and joins her brother in self-exile.

2018 - Junta announces elections for the next year after repeated delays, lifting hopes as new parties emerge.

2019 - Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn shuts down the shock prime ministerial candidacy of his elder sister Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, who stood for the Thaksin-linked Thai Raksa Chart party.

March 23, 2019 - On the eve of the vote, the king sends another message to Thai citizens, urging them to support "good people" and not those who create "chaos".

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