In a court ruling today Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai Prime Minister, has been banned from Thailand politics for 5 years and his Thai Rak Thai party has been ordered to disband. It’s yet another strand to Thailand’s tangled political web.
Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup in September 2006. He was accused of corruption and today his Thai Rak Thai party was found guilty of breaking election laws. The main opposition party, the Democrat Party, were also charged with similar offences but were deemed to be not guilty. This leaves the Democrats free to partake in elections scheduled for December of this year. Thaksin had previously agreed to abide by the court’s ruling whatever the outcome may be.
The Thai Rak Party has massive support in rural Thailand, but less so in urban Bangkok. Prior to the hearing, there was a fear that there would be an influx of Thai Rak Thai supporters to the capital with possible demonstrations and confrontations. Over 10,000 police officers and soldiers were on duty to prevent any problems and steps had been taken to prevent large groups travelling into the capital from rural areas. Thaksin, speaking from his current home in London, had requested his supporters to stay at home and watch the verdict on television rather than travel to Bangkok. As I write this, there have been no reports of any trouble.
The result is not a huge surprise, but it is likely there will be many more twists and turns between now and the promised elections in December. Thaksin had already said he wasn’t interested in a return to politics, but his large support base may still prove a headache for the coup leaders in the months to come.
So, how does it all affect the overseas visitor to Thailand? The answer, at the moment, is probably not a lot. Life will still go on in the tourist areas as normal, but political demonstrations are still a possibility in Bangkok in the coming weeks and months with various political factions vying for power.