BANGKOK – Thailand’s widening political divide pits anti-government, predominantly urban “yellow shirt” protesters against the pro-government, mainly rural and working class “red shirts.”
The anti-government protesters, drawn mainly from Bangkok’s middle class, royalist establishment, allege that Yingluck is her brother’s puppet and seek to rid Thai politics of her family’s influence.
Led by the PDRC, they began their protests in November, outraged by her government’s botched attempt to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for the return of Thaksin to the political fray in earnest.
Parliament was then dissolved in December ahead of a snap February general election that was disrupted by anti-government protesters, and subsequently ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court.
The protesters are seeking a new government — but not through elections, which the opposition Democrat Party has boycotted, arguing the alleged corruption of their political rivals makes widespread reform necessary before any meaningful vote can be held.
“They claim the Thaksin clan as they call (it) is corrupt and has dominated the country’s politics, and the only way forward is to remove the Thaksin influence from politics and not have elections,” said Quaglia.
Suthep, a former deputy prime minister for the Democrat Party, has instead called for power to be transferred to an unelected “people’s council.”
But Quaglia said the opposition’s real motivation for avoiding elections was clear.
“The Democrat Party say ‘No, we can’t have elections,’ because they know they will lose those elections.”
In contrast, the red shirt supporters of Yingluck and her brother, many of whom hail from the north and northeast of the country, accuse the court of bias against their side.
PDRC spokesman Akanat Phrompan told reporters his movement did not recognize the legitimacy of the caretaker government.
“Currently there is no government to govern this country, so we must find a way to appoint a new government.”
Meanwhile, the red shirts are planning their own rally in Bangkok Saturday to protest what Quaglia said they saw as “a judicial coup.”
In the wake of the court’s ruling Wednesday, supporters at the red shirts’ Bangkok headquarters were defiant.
“This is the breaking point now, everything is leading up to the breaking point,” Kanthira Ketawandee, a Bangkok piano teacher and Yingluck supporter told reporters. “I would say Yingluck has died (in) her duty for democracy.”
Thida Thavornset, a red shirt leader urged supporters to join Saturday’s rally. “We won’t give up until we win.”
Elections are scheduled for July 20, but Thitinan said he believed it was “unlikely” that a vote would proceed in the wake of recent developments.
“The PDRC appears intent on pressing on for an appointment government of its preference, which can only galvanize red shirt protests,” he said. “A showdown is looming.”