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Terrorism & Security

Thailand protesters want government dissolved

Tens of thousands of Thailand protesters flooded the streets of Bangkok on Sunday wearing red shirts to support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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In a Q&A about the red shirts, Reuters writes that most experts do not believe that the UDD protesters will turn violent, as the UDD would likely lose domestic support in such a situation.

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Experts do worry that third parties might try to agitate the situation to violence to discredit the UDD, however. And The Bangkok Post cites Thai-language newspaper Thai Rath, which wrote that the UDD is unlikely to be successful in their challenge to the government because its leadership may lose control of the situation if the protesters get too large in number or stay too long in Bangkok without seeing results.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the protests "vividly demonstrat[e] the continuing pull of Thailand's ousted leader, former telecommunications billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra," who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. The forces behind the coup still support the current regime, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has refused to dissolve the government.

In a weekly television address, Mr. Abhisit suggested he wouldn't dissolve Parliament and call new elections, saying it could cause further tension. "Dissolution and call for resignations are normal in a democratic system. But we have to make sure the dissolution of parliament will solve the problem and won't cause more trouble at the next election," said Mr. Abhisit, who also dismissed speculation that another coup was being planned. ...

"If the government gives in to the red-shirt demands, it would signify that the 2006 coup had no meaning. The alliance between the army and the bureaucratic elites would have lost everything they have gained in the past four years," says Thanet Aphornsuvan, a historian at Bangkok's Thammasat University. "It will be very difficult for the authorities to back down, and if they do it will be a decision taken by the army and the bureaucracy, too, not just Mr. Abhisit."

The protests come just a few weeks after Thailand's Supreme Court confiscated $1.4 billion of Thaksin's money, which had been seized during the 2006 coup. The ruling was just the latest in a series of legal defeats for Thaksin, which his supporters say show a judicial bias against him.

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