On March 26 the UDD Red Shirts began this protest campaign against the current Thai Government. It started with thousands of supporters rallying in Bangkok. These supporters are loyal to and many say controlled by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Know as the Red Shirts the protesters called for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government to resign and allow fresh elections. They were supported by nightly addresses by telephone and video links from Thaksin.
On the following day March 27, Thaksin accuses Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, privy councilors Surayud Chulanond and Charnchai Likitjitta of being behind the 2006 military coup that toppled him.
The Privy Council of Thailand is a body of appointed advisors to the Monarch of Thailand: King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. Councilors can, under royal command, represent the King at official functions. Other important functions include drafting amendments to the Palace Law regarding royal succession. The President of the Privy Council acts as regent pro tempore in the King’s absence.
On March 28 General Surayud strongly rejected Thaksin’s claim, saying privy councilors like the King are not involved in politics. They are the advisors to the King and had no part in the Military Coup.
Rallies and protest continued in Bangkok as the Red Shirts tired to get the Government to agree to their demands. On April 2 Jatuporn Prompan (Red Shirt Leader) call for the resignation of Mr Abhist, General Prm and the Privy Councilors. A large rally is planned for April 8. Since the council is appointed by the King, and the King is above any criticism by Thai law, it is a very dangerous action by the Red Shirts.
The next day (April 3)the Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban invites Thaksin to negotiate with the government for a resolution to the issues. Thaksin rejects to offer and calls on his supporters to come out in force for the mass rally on April 8.
Taxi drivers loyal to Thaksin and his Red Shirts block the main roads and Victory Monument, on April 9, which brings the city to a halt. Normal traffic is bad in the city of Bangkok, so when protestors try to slow things it becomes total gridlock. Mr Abhisit expresses his displeasure with the red-shirts and vows to take harsh action against anyone who break the law, but no action is taken.
By April 10 the protesters are firmly spread out across Bangkok, Thaksin’s then launches a separate protest in the beach resort of Pattaya, where 16 Asian leaders are set to meet for a major Asean-sponsored summit, with Asean chairman Thailand as the host.
This is the summit meeting that was postponed in December of last year because of the Yellow Shirt protesters who took over Bangkok’s International Airports.
By Saturday April 11 Thousands of Red Shirt protesters had arrived in Pattaya and were ready to take action against the summit. Security was very heavy with police, military and private forces all protecting the summit. So it came as someone of a surprise that thousands of protesters were able to storm the venue of the summit and gain access to the world leaders.
This was a huge embarrassment for Thailand and the Government. The summit was now canceled for a second time. The world leaders meeting at the conference used their last line of defense, the official security forces that they travel with. A state of emergency is declared and foreign leaders were evacuated, some by helicopters flown to the roof of the hotel. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is on the first helicopter to leave, the conference is ruined, Thailand looks very bad in the eyes of the world and the Red shirts seem to have the up hand.
Pattaya becomes very quiet the Red Shirts with their job done here return to Bangkok and call for the Government to step down On April 12 a state of emergency is declared in Bangkok and surrounding areas. Red Shirt anti-government demonstrations spring up all over the city, the military move into Bangkok in force and the stage is set for major conflict.
The leader of the Pattaya protest Arisman Pongruangrong arrested in Bangkok. About 50 protesters force their way into the Interior Ministry grounds while Mr Abhisit is inside. He escapes but his car is destroyed by the protesters. Thaksin makes a speech to his followers telling them to be strong and says he will lead an uprising if there is a coup.
Early on the morning of April 13 the army cracks down on the protesters in Bangkok. Two people die and 123 are injured, the army leads assaults on the protesters. Guns are fired, tear gas and many fights break out, but the Red Shirt protestors are no match using, clubs, bats, and gas cocktail bombs against the military. Locals in Bangkok loyal to the current government get involve and several ugly confrontations break out.
Thousands of demonstrators who retreated to their main camp outside Government House on April 14 and leaders of the protest agree to disperse in the face of overwhelming military operations. Protesters are allowed to leave and offered bus rides home, most live many hours outside of Bangkok. Before being allowed to board the buses the police checks ID’s and take pictures of the protesters.
The Government tries to change the attitude in Bangkok by extending the three-day Songkran holiday for two more days. The protest failed to produce one of the wanted results; the Government for now is still standing. It was successful on a couple of other fronts; the image of the current Government has been greatly damaged and the economy of Thailand is set to loose billions in business and tourist dollars. It is believed that tourism will not recover for at least two years.