Home > Local News > Thailand faces fresh street protests from Yellows

Thailand faces fresh street protests from Yellows

Supporters of the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy, also known
as the Yellow Shirts, hold portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and
Queen Sirikit during a protest outside the government house in Bangkok,
Thailand Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. Thailand’s capital is bracing for a
new round of street protests by nationalist groups that claim the
government fails to safeguard disputed territory along the border with
neighboring Cambodia.
(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
BANGKOK—Thailand’s government faced renewed street
protests Tuesday as the right-wing nationalist group that seized
Bangkok’s airports two years ago gathered in the capital to pressure
the prime minister over a land dispute with Cambodia.
The rally by the People’s Alliance
for Democracy — also known as the Yellow Shirts — and an associated
fringe group are raising tensions in a country still recovering from
political violence last year that turned parts of the capital into a
war zone. Police on Monday arrested five men accused of plotting to
bomb the protest.

The
demonstrators set up a stage along a major street near the U.N.’s Asian
headquarters and Government House, the prime minister’s office that the
Yellows occupied for three months in 2008. By late afternoon more than
2,000 people were camped in the area and tents and toilets were being
set up.

The protesters want
the government to revoke a pact with Cambodia on settling border
disputes; withdraw from the U.N. Education Scientific and Culture
Organization World Heritage Committee, which approved Cambodia’s
application for landmark status for a temple on the border; and force
Cambodian residents off land the group claims should belong to Thailand.

The
demands have already been rejected by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,
and the protest appears mainly aimed at putting pressure on the
government ahead of elections that must be called by the end of the
year.

Asked how long the
rally would last, Chamlong Srimuang, an alliance leader, said: “I don’t
know. It depends on the prime minister, not us. If he answers our
demands, then we quit.”

Thailand
has seen a number of prolonged and often violent street protests since
domestic politics became unhinged in 2006. That was the year a military
coup deposed then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra following
demonstrations by the Yellow Shirts calling for him to step down.

The
alliance — which previously campaigned for the country’s electoral
laws to be rewritten so rural voters would have less power — took to
the streets again in 2008, staging its occupations of the prime
minister’s office and Bangkok’s airports to call for the removal of two
successive pro-Thaksin prime ministers.

The
demonstrations and the removal of the Thaksin-allied governments by
court decisions inspired a backlash movement by the United Front for
Democracy Against Dictatorship — known as the Red Shirts — that
culminated in last year’s protest that shut down the heart of Bangkok’s
shopping district for more than a month and led to deadly clashes with
the military.

On Monday,
police arrested five men who were allegedly planning to set off bombs
to disrupt the latest demonstrations. One was seized as he was
allegedly preparing to place bombs at the site, and the others at a
house where police found rocket-propelled grenades and launchers.

The
Cambodian issue has its origins in a dispute between Cambodia and
Thailand over land near a landmark temple on their border, but has
evolved into a Thai domestic political issue.

The
International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th century
Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the decision rankled
Thailand, which still claims land around the temple.

The
issue was virtually dormant until Cambodia applied in 2008 to UNESCO to
have the temple declared a World Heritage site, an application backed
by the government in power in Bangkok at the time.
 
Right-wing
groups protested that the action threatened Thailand’s sovereignty,
though their protests were seen as mainly a way of rallying opponents
of the government. Both countries’ leaders, defending their patriotic
credentials, then built up military forces at the border, which have
engaged in several brief clashes in the past two years.
 
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Categories: Local News
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