A summit of Asian leaders was disrputed in Thailand yesterday after hundreds of protesters stormed the convention centre where leaders were preparing to discuss the global economic crisis.
1. Who are the protesters and what are their goals? The protesters yesterday wore red. As you might guess, this marks them as supporters of a political movement of the lower and rural classes. They are most likely supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in September 2006 by a military coup supported by Thailand’s business class.
2. Are these the same people who shut down the Thai airports last summer? No. Those protesters were mostly from the business oriented middle class. They were demonstrating against what they perceived as the threatened return of Thaksin, who they view as a left-wing anti-business demagogue.
3. How come these Thai protests are so effective? When thousands of protesters marched in London during the G20 meeting, they were corralled into a small area and kept far away from the international leaders who were meeting. In Thailand, however, the protesters actually got inside the convention centre so that the meeting had to be shut down and leaders evacuated. It seems that the difference is the role of the politice and the military. In London, the police worked hard to contain the protests. In Thailand, the police may have decided to allow the protesters to shut down the meeting. This is raising concerns about whether the government has lost control of the military, which might presage another coup.
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