Elections Held Despite Anti-Government Protests
In Feb. 2013, the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra agreed to peace talks with leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), one of the oldest and most formidable rebel insurgent groups operating in the country's south. The provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat are home to ethnic Malays and form a Muslim majority. Resistance to Buddhist rule turned violent in 2004; since then more than 5,400 people have been killed.
In early November 2013, Thailand's lower house passed a bill granting amnesty to those accused of offenses committed after the coup of 2006, during which Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by the military. Thaksin, facing charges of corruption and abuse of power, would be covered under the amnesty law. More than 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest the bill's passage. The bill, however, failed to pass the Senate. Anti-government protests continued into December, with thousands of people taking to the streets to demand the resignation of Yingluck Shinawatra, who they say is a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin. On Dec. 9, Yingluck dissolved parliament and called for early elections, scheduled for February 2014. The opposition, which largely represents the urban middle class, feels the rural majority has accumulated too much power and elections would not solve the problem. Instead, it demanded that parliament be replaced with an unelected People's Council and that the king appoint a prime minister.
Despite ongoing protests, elections were held on Feb. 2, 2014. The opposition, which boycotted the vote, disrupted the election by preventing the delivery of ballot boxes to about 11% of the precincts and by preventing some people from registering as candidates. The country's Constitutional Court ruled in March that the election was invalid. A new election was set for July. Few expected there would be marked progress in another election.
Thailand's Constitutional Court ordered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign in May 2014 after ruling that she abused power in 2011 when she removed a civil servant from his post and replaced him with a relative. It was considered a blatantly political ruling that risked a return to violent protests. Deputy Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan took over as acting prime minister. Both anti- and pro-government protests continued, and the anti-government demonstrators shut down several government buildings and took over the prime minister's office.