Tens of thousands of opposition and government supporters generate potential for trouble writes Asia Sentinel.
Bangkok faces a growing crisis Saturday as tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of frustrated “Red Shirt” supporters of the government and equal numbers of opponents descend on the city for mass rallies.
Suthep Thaugsuban, the secretary general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, which has been attempting for five months to drive the democratically elected Pheu Thai government headed by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from power, said the coming events would be a final push in the campaign, which so far has left 24 dead and hundreds injured from scores of mysterious attacks.
The real target is Yingluck’s brother Thaksin, a 65-year-old former business tycoon who won election in 2001 but was driven from power in 2006 by a royalist coup. He has lived outside the country since 2008, running the government through surrogate parties after he was convicted of abusing his power to help his wife buy public land at auction. He faces a two-year jail term if he returns. It was a misguided attempt to railroad an amnesty bill through the Thai parliament that kicked off the current crisis in October of last year.
Starting with his first term in office, Thaksin won the loyalty of the millions of rural poor through extensive social platforms including cheap health plans, loans, generating local industries and other programs although critics say his government was later riddled with corruption and abuse of power.
From the start, the campaign to oust the government has run the danger that millions of Thaksin’s rural supporters from the northeast of the country would ultimately lose patience and descend on Bangkok with the aim of taking revenge on the opposition for attempting to drive Pheu Thai from power. Yingluck and her government have scrupulously sought to keep that from happening.