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In Thailand, It's Crippling Déjà Vu All Over Again

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
November 28, 2013


As November brings relieving, cool weather to steamy Bangkok, protestors are massing at intersections throughout the city, chanting slogans opposing Thaksin Shinawatra, the de facto head of the party running Parliament, and calling for the government to fall. Groups of demonstrators, clothed in t-shirts reading "Get Out! [Thaksin]" have taken over critical infrastructure in Bangkok and are threatening to commandeer more parts of the city. The military is on edge and foreign embassies have issued warnings to their citizens. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the president-elect, Barack Obama, has just begun making up his cabinet.

Wait … that guy Obama isn't president-elect anymore. Indeed, the above scene from Bangkok took place in 2008, when a group of mostly middle-class protestors opposed to a pro-Thaksin party running the Thai government seized control of Bangkok's main international airport and other places around the city, paralyzing commerce and policy-making and ultimately leading to the government's collapse.

To the protestors' delight, the government was replaced—without an election—by a new parliamentary coalition featuring the Democrat Party, mainly supported by urban, middle-class, royalist Thais. Two years later, Bangkok was swarming with protestors again, and by 2011 a pro-Thaksin party had won control of Parliament once more.

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