Going to Thailand? Excellent. But if you're going to a different country, it's not only polite to learn a little of the language so that you can at least ask for directions or order a meal, but it's also polite to learn a little of the local politics so that you can chat with the locals. Even if politics is the last thing you'll want to discuss whilst on holiday, it's worth knowing how a country functions if you're going to be spending any time there. So here is bkknewsblog's crash-course in Thai politics.
Firstly, the country has operated as a democracy for many years. Much of the constitutional power rests with the Prime Minister and the ruling government, although the Thai people have retained their monarchy as a sense of unity and identity. Bureaucrats, generals and businessmen have led political parties. Whilst the King ultimately has very little power under the constitution, the present monarch holds a great deal of respect amongst Thai people. This has often been used to indirectly to influence the course of the government, and intervene on certain political crises.
Recent political history is rather turbulent. In 2006, a violent political clash was concocted against multimillionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Prime Minister at the time. The military seized power in time to prevent the clash, and a new interim civilian government was formed. But since then, Thailand's political history has continued to be difficult. Terrorist attacks continued in rural areas, throughout 2006 and 2007, and Thaskin himself fled to Great Britain in 2008, seeking political asylum. By this time, Samak Sundaravej was in charge, but his appointment did not stop Thai protestors.
Most recently, there have been further anti-government protests in 2009 and 2010. These often became violent, with the government responding harshly with anti-riot crackdowns from armed troops. With protestors occupying downtown Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva finally agreed to hold elections in 2011. As a direct result of this election, Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party became Thailand's first female Prime Minister, and a number of international bans on Thailand were lifted.