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Thailand

Yearbook 2008

2008 ThailandThailand. According to Countryaah reports, Thailand experienced a politically stormy year and its fragile democracy seemed seriously threatened.

The newly formed People's Power (PPP) formed government at the end of January, a month after the parliamentary elections, together with five smaller parties. New Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a supporter of the overthrown Thaksin Shinawatra.

The royalist, military-friendly middle and upper class in Bangkok, whose demonstrations had helped provoke the military coup in 2006, dismissed Samak as a puppet to Thaksin. When the new government announced its intention to try to change the constitution the military had written, new protests erupted. The opponents, gathered in the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), camped outside Samak's office and blocked important junctions in Bangkok's street network.

2008 Thailand

While the conflict around the government was ongoing, Thaksin Shinawatra returned from his escape and was immediately brought to trial. He was prosecuted for having used his office to have his wife buy real estate at a reduced price.

The political crisis had financial consequences. The prices fell steadily on the Bangkok stock exchange during the spring and investors' confidence in the country decreased.

In July, the Foreign Minister resigned after the Constitutional Court ruled that he violated his powers by supporting Cambodia's attempt to get a temple at the joint border of the countries included on the UN agency UNESCO World Heritage List. Thai nationalists took the opportunity to strike against the government by gathering at the temple and bringing forward old demands for a border adjustment. The demonstrations led for some time to tensions between the countries, both of which brought together military forces along the border.

In August, Thaksin and his wife were granted permission to travel to Beijing to attend the Olympic inauguration. From China, they announced that they did not intend to return. However, the corruption trial continued, and in October, Thaksin was sentenced in his absence to two years in prison.

The continued protests against the government hardened, and after severe riots in early September, state of emergency was issued in the capital. A few days later, the government met its bleak end when a court ordered Samak to resign because he illegally received money to participate in a cooking show on TV. When PPP appointed Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat as new prime minister, the protests increased in strength. Tens of thousands of PAD supporters occupied parts of the government office and forced the Cabinet to relocate its operations to premises at the disused Don Muang airport. In November, after several months of uninterrupted demonstrations, PAD occupied both Don Muang and the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport. The government now moved to the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, while the country gradually closed to the outside world.

On December 2, the Constitutional Court ruled that PPP and two of its partners had been guilty of electoral fraud. All three parties dissolved and Somchai deposed. He and all other senior officials in the three parties were banned from political activity for five years.

The PPP immediately resurfaced in new form under the name Pheu Thai (For the Thais) and claimed to form a new government. There was a tug of war in Parliament over which party constellation could gather a majority. An alliance around the Democratic Party managed to gather the greatest support and the party's leader Abhisit Vejjajiva took office as prime minister, the country's fourth since the beginning of the year. However, the contradictions persisted, and Abhisit was forced to submit his government statement in the Foreign Ministry's premises after PPP supporters had blocked the parliament building.

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