Thailand. The year began with cautious optimism about the possibility of ending the conflict in southern Thailand. In February, government representatives and Muslim separatists from the BRN group (National Revolutionary Front) managed to conclude an agreement to start peace talks. It was the first time a similar agreement was signed between the two warring parties and it came after a period of escalated violence in the area. However, the BRN was just one of several groups fighting for independence or autonomy in the Muslim south of the country, and the same month rebels attacked an army base in Narathiwat province.
According to Countryaah, sixteen rebels were reported to have been killed when the military fought back the attack. In addition, a series of explosions in both the Yala and Pattani provinces demanded the lives of several soldiers and civilians. Throughout the spring, summer and autumn, the deadly violence continued, mainly in the form of car bombs and armed ambushes, while peace talks continued. The uprising in the three Muslim-dominated provinces as well as the adjacent Buddhist-dominated Songkhla has claimed about 5,500 lives since it was resumed in 2004.
After a few rounds of talks, when BRN leader Hassan Taib demanded autonomy for Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, a Thai troop retreat from the area and amnesty for the rebels, the parties agreed in July to introduce a truce during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in July-August.
In January, two redshirts (supporters of the political camp of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra) were convicted of majestic crimes. Offending the royal family is prohibited and can result in long prison terms. The Majestic Crime Act has many critics among the red shirts, who believe that the royalist camp is using the law to access its opponents. When the royalist and yellow shirt founder Sondhi Limthongkul in October was sentenced to two years in prison for majestic crimes for citing a red shirt in a speech in 2008, it provoked great outrage among royal friends.
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The government continued its efforts to make changes to the constitution introduced by the military government in 2007, a year after the coup against the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The current government is led by the Thaksin-friendly Party For Thailand (Pheu Thai), whose leader, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, is the sister of the corruption convicted and fugitive Thaksin. However, attempts at constitutional amendments were stopped in April by the Constitutional Court.
The government also sought to pass a contentious amnesty law that would impose impunity for crimes committed in connection with political violence during the unrest in the country from September 19, 2006 to May 10, 2011. Amnestine would thus apply to crimes in connection with the coup against Thaksin 2006, the yellow shirt mass demonstrations against the Thaksin-friendly government in 2008 and the red-shirt protests in 2010 against the government led by the Democratic Party. Only the main leaders of the protest actions on both sides were excluded.
The bill met opposition from the Thaksin hostile camp, which feared that the law would be used to give Thaksin the opportunity to return to Thailand and the political arena. However, no violent mass demonstrations occurred. In May, Thai media reported that a Yingluck hostile group, “Thai Spring”, had been formed. In August, the House of Representatives (Lower House) passed the amnesty law in a first of two polls. The law was also adopted in the second vote in October. But when it was pushed through in the Senate (upper house) in November, it stopped. Yingluck said she would respect the Senate’s decision. Nevertheless, the yellow ones gathered in mass demonstrations in Bangkok for the purpose of getting the government down.
Tens of thousands of government critics surrounded a number of ministries, police headquarters and other authorities with the aim of paralyzing the business and thereby forcing the government to step down. Yingluck gave the police increased powers, but stressed that the military should not be called. However, when the mainly peaceful demonstrations at the end of the month became violent by the time red-shirts and yellows collapsed, soldiers had to help the police disperse the protests. At least four people were killed when the political opponents met. In Parliament, the opposition tried in vain to defeat the government by a vote of confidence, which the government side won.
When the Democratic Party members in parliament in December chose to leave their seats in a boycott against the government’s retention, Yingluck chose to announce new elections until February 2014. However, the decision did not affect the protesters, who continued their protests and demanded that a non-democratic appointee ” advice ‘would replace the government.
The same month, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, of the Democratic Party, was indicted for two murders committed in connection with the police action Abhisit ordered against the red shirts in 2010, when over 90 people were killed. The leader of the ongoing demonstrations, Suthep Thaugsuban from the same party, was also charged with the same murder.
In June, the government decided to lower the level of the price guarantee given to rice-growing farmers. The rice price guarantee program had entailed large costs for the state. The decision led to vigorous protests among both farmers and Bangkok residents. As a result, Prime Minister Yingluck later furnished the same month in his government – for the fourth time since its 2011 entry – and kicked off the Minister of Commerce responsible for the implementation of the decision to cut the subsidies.
At the same time, she took over the post of Minister of Defense and thus became the country’s first woman on that post. Analysts felt that the reason was that she wanted to forge closer ties with those parts of the military that were highly critical of her brother and that by becoming Minister of Defense she was given a place in the body that appoints senior military leaders.
Great attention was given to the fact that King Bhumibol, aged 85, and Queen Sirikit, aged 80, left the hospital in Bangkok in August for a stay in Hua Hin. The king had been at the hospital since 2009 due to breathing problems and the queen was admitted to the hospital in 2012. The smallest incident about the Thai king arouses immense interest among residents, among whom many believe the king stands as a guarantor of national unity in the politically divided kingdom..
In November, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the disputed land areas around the Preah Vihear temple complex at the border between Thailand and Cambodia belong to Cambodia. The temple area had long been the scene of a nationalist struggle between the two countries. As early as 1962, the court granted Cambodia the right to the temple itself. The Hague Court urged Thailand to withdraw all kinds of armed personnel – soldiers, police and border guards – from the area where a post war was going on.