The People's Alliance for Democracy and Protesting Status Quo
In August 2008, thousands of protesters, called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), staged a sit-in outside the government buildings in Bangkok, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who they call a proxy for Thaksin. Demonstrators were seeking to change the governing and electoral process that has empowered the rural majority, who PAD members say are “ill educated,” at the expense of the elite. The PAD has recommended introducing an appointed, rather than elected, legislature. About a week into the sit-in, pro-government protesters launched a counter-demonstration, which turned violent, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. The military and police did not enforce the state of emergency, however. In a press conference, army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda declared neutrality in the conflict. "We are not taking sides," he said. "If the nation is the people, we are the army of the people."
Samak was forced to resign in September when Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled that he violated the constitution, which prohibits working in the private sector while in office, by being paid to appear on the cooking show "Tasting and Complaining." Somchai Wongsawat, the first deputy prime minister, became acting prime minister. Parliament elected him prime minister on September 17, 298 to 163.
The unrest took a dramatic turn on October 7, when two people were killed and more than 400 wounded in fighting between security forces and anti-government protesters. Demonstrators, tyring to prevent the inauguration of Somchai, barricaded lawmakers inside the Parliament building and the army was deployed. PAD protesters were buoyed by an October ruling by Thailand's anticorruption court that found Thaksin guilty of corruption over a land deal. The court sentenced him to two years in prison. On November 25, the protesters shut down Bangkok's Suvarnaabhumi Intnerantional Airport, creating a national crisis and stranding tourists. The next day, Thailand's army chief, General Anupong Paochinda, urged Prime Minister Somchai to resign and call new elections. Somchai refused to heed Anupong's advice and then declared a state of emergency and authorized the police and military to evict the protesters.
Thailand's Constitutional Court disbanded the governing People Power Party on Dec. 2, ruling that it engaged in fraud during the 2007 elections. The decision forced Somchai from power and banned party members from politics for five years. Supporters of Thaksin maintained their parliamentary majority and said they will attempt to continue governing by forming a new party. The ruling prompted protesters to end their blockade of Suvarnaabhumi International Airport. First deputy prime minister, Chaovarat Chanweerakul, became caretaker prime minister. Days later, on Dec. 15, Parliament elected Abhisit Vejjajiva, the head of the Democrat Party, as prime minister. Abhisit drew most of his support from the educated middle class of Thailand.