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Since 1912, Thailand has had a notable history of military coups. The latest occurred in May 2014 following the 2013/14 political crisis. Thousands of Thais protested across the country, resulting in the removal of the then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He was replaced by Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, who was himself deposed three weeks later in a military coup led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Commander of the Royal Thai Army.
In years past, some coups have turned ugly with the military cracking down on protests resulting in bloody encounters in 2010 and 2014. Anti-government protesters, including dissidents from southern Thailand, have also carried out bombings in response to government decisions.
The Red Shirts – originally formed by supporters of the controversial Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup, and forced into exile.
The group occupied central Bangkok in 2010, complaining their party had been illegally and unfairly dismissed even though they won the post-coup election.
Known as UDD - the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship support the populist, mostly rural-based party Pheu Thai. the party was led by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck, until her arrest and removal in 2014, during the military coup. The party has many supporters but little power.
The Yellow Shirts, also known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), are a movement of royalist, upper and middle class, and mostly Bangkok-based Thais opposed to Thaksin Shinawatra. It is smaller in size but holds all the key power positions in Thai society.
It was the Yellow Shirts who occupied the international airport in 2008 (leaving 1,500 travelers stranded for a week), protesting the victory of pro-Shinawatra parties in the post-coup election. The protests lead to the dismissal of that government. They were also responsible for driving the 2008 Cambodian-Thai border standoff.
Airports in Bangkok and Phuket have been locations of protest occupation in the past, so airports could once again be a target. The Thai military will be swift in their response which could mean tighter security and delays for passengers.
Ratchaprasong Square was previously occupied in 2010, so it's possible the square could again become a focal protest site. With the anticipated military response, popular tourist districts could be closed amid tighter security.
With the ascension of Maha Vajiralongkorn, the late Thai king's son, to the throne in December 2016, there are rumors of attempts to wrestle back power from the military junta currently in control of Thailand.
Everything might seem calm, but coup situations are unpredictable. If you see a political protest or demonstration at any time - walk the other way.
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