Who’s Who

  • Thaksin and the red shirts
    Exiled former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by the military in 2006 amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power. But Thaksin, a populist, remains popular among many Thai voters, particularly those in rural areas of the country.

    Thaksin’s supporters, the “red shirts,” argue that Thaksin was democratically elected and should still be in power. They say that rural voters are disenfranchised by the elites in Bangkok.

    What do they want?
    Many red shirts say they want Thaksin to return to Thailand and once again assume power. Other red shirts say that they no longer support Thaksin, but that they want their political voices to be heard. They say they want true democracy in Thailand.

  • The yellow shirts
    Thaksin was driven from power by the military and is despised by Bangkok’s middle class and business establishment. They accuse the billionaire of being corrupt, and of trying to undermine Thailand’s institutions in his quest for power and riches.

    Many “yellow shirts” argue that rural voters are easily corruptible, and advocate the the government’s use of more appointed — rather than entirely elected — representatives.

    What do they want?
    Many yellow shirts say they want Thaksin to face charges for his alleged crimes. Some yellow shirts support the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva.

  • The military
    The military is influential in Thai politics. There have been 18 military coups in Thailand since 1932, a time that has seen some 23 elections and 27 prime ministers. The bloodless military coup that ended Thaksin’s tenure in 2006 was followed by more than a year of military rule.

    What do they want?
    Critics say the military wants to maintain power and influence via the political sphere. Military leaders say they simply want to maintain order for the people of Thailand.

This page last updated June 7, 2011.

Image: Thaksin Shinawatra. Source: Wikimedia Commons.