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Thailand’s turbulent political history

Violent demonstrations, multiple coups and a cryptic election eve message from the king.

Thailand’s unpredictable political history has few rivals.

The country’s election Sunday is the first since a 2014 coup.

Here is a brief look at two turbulent decades in Thai politics.

– ‘Lost decade’ –

2001 – Policeman-turned-billionaire telecoms magnate Thaksin Shinawatra wins at the polls promising social welfare schemes.

2003 – A brutal war on drugs kills upwards of 2,500 people. A year later a crackdown in the Muslim-majority Deep South sparks a renewed insurgency.

2005 – Thaksin repeats electoral triumph, heading up the first civilian administration to complete a four-year term in a history rattled by army takeovers.

2006 – While at the UN in New York, Thaksin is toppled in bloodless coup. A period of protests and violent clashes ensues and historians dub the prolonged instability the “Lost Decade”.

– Yellow and Red –

2008 – Thaksin is convicted in absentia on corruption charges he says are politically motivated and flees into self-exile.

Anti-Thaksin protesters known as “Yellow Shirts” storm Bangkok’s airports, shutting them down for over a week to protest a Thaksin ally as premier — who is soon removed.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva becomes prime minister after a parliamentary vote.

2009 – Pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts” storm a regional summit hosted by Thailand demanding elections and forcing participants to flee by helicopter and boat.

2010 – More than 90 people are killed as the army — led by current junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha — opens fire on Red Shirts protesting in downtown Bangkok.

2011 – Fresh elections in 2011 see Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck emerge as Thailand’s first female prime minister.

2014 – Anti-Yingluck demonstrators hold months-long protests that turn violent. A snap 2014 election is annulled and military seizes power.

– Junta delays, holds vote –

2016 – Junta leader Prayut oversees a crackdown on dissent and wins a referendum to change the constitution.

Thailand mourns the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was seen as a figure of unity over a seven-decade reign.

2017 – Yingluck flees the country to avoid negligence charges and joins brother in self-exile.

2018 – Junta announces elections for next year after repeated delays, lifting hopes as new parties emerge.

2019 – Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn shuts down shock prime ministerial candidacy of older sister Princess Ubolratana, who stood for the Thaksin-linked Thai Raksa Chart party.

March 23, 2019 – On eve of vote, the king sends another message to Thai citizens, urging them to support “good people” and not those who create “chaos”.

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