Thailand protesters gather peacefully; earlier rally turned violent - CNN.comProtest leaders have said they want to rid Thailand of the influence of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the older brother of Yingluck Shinawatra.
That's an ambitious goal in a country where every election since 2001 has been won by parties affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire who built his political success on populist policies that appealed to Thailand's rural heartland.
Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and has spent most of the time since then in exile overseas. If he returns, he risks a two-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction, which he says was politically motivated.
The current protests in Bangkok were prompted by a botched attempt by Yingluck Shinawatra's government to pass an amnesty bill that would have opened the door for her brother's return.
The prevailing opinion in Bangkok is that the Thaksin camp used and continues to use coersion, bribery, and corruption to maintain their power. Urban Thais are mostly fed up with the dirty politics of the Thaksin clan. They are also fed up with high taxes aimed at providing services, and alleged bribes, for the more poor urban Thais and rural poor Thais above and beyond what they view as proper. Thaksin was ousted by 'bloodless' military coup, so it is likely that whatever side the military is on will ultimately win. Popular vote country wide would almost certainly keep the Thaksin clan in power, whether Yingluk is PM or not, but it will be difficult for middle and upper class Thais in Bangkok to accept that. There will be several more acts to follow as Thais continue to iron out their domestic policy future.
Separately, this is playing out as a capitalist v. socialist sort of thing. Capitalists (yellow shirts) in favor of good economic policy, pro business legislation, and less taxes aimed at providing 'overreaching' services to the poor, and Socialists (red shirts) in favor of redistribution of wealth, government protectionism, and maintaining their power base through legislative and real bribery. Obviously I'm on the capitalist side.