People's Alliance for Democracy

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“Yellow” protest movement 2008

The People’s Alliance for Democracy ( Thai : พันธมิตร ประชาชน เพื่อ ประชาธิปไตย , RTGS : Phanthamit Prachachon phuea Prachathippatai ; English People’s Alliance for Democracy , PAD for short , or simply “yellow shirts” , เสื้อ เหลือง , Suea lueang ) was a Thai political movement that started in 2005/2006 was founded in protest against the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with the aim of removing him and, among other things, indicting him of corruption. Up to 200,000 people took part in their mass protests in spring 2006. After Thaksin was overthrown by a military coup in September 2006 , it disbanded.

In 2008, the PAD was revived and protested against the government of the People's Power Party (PPP), which Thaksin was affiliated with. Their activists besieged the government building and occupied the airport in the capital Bangkok. Some of its members used force. There were bloody clashes with security forces and opposing political groups.

The PAD mainly recruited people from the middle and upper classes. Many of the original supporters of the PAD were staunch liberals. Its leaders included progressive civil rights activists who accused Thaksin's government of corruption, abuse of power and human rights abuses. They were convinced by the idea of ​​“royal liberalism”, that is, the idea that a strong monarch can counteract the aspirations of self-interested politicians. The driving force behind the movement, however, were traditional conservative elites who wanted to reverse their loss of power to Thaksin's network. Extreme nationalist and monarchist rhetoric was increasingly spread from the ranks of the “yellow shirts”.

After losing massively in popularity, the PAD disbanded in August 2013. Many of their supporters joined the mass protests of 2013-14 .


Anti-Thaksin protester 2006. T-shirt inscription: "For the King." Armlet and scarf around the waist: "Save the nation."

In the Thai tradition, each day of the week is associated with a specific color . Yellow stands for Monday. Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born on a Monday, so the color is a symbol of the monarch.


Neither the social origin nor the political orientation of the “yellow shirts” can be clearly delineated. The PAD was a coalition of very heterogeneous, sometimes even opposing groups, which was only held together by their opposition to Thaksin. Two main currents can be roughly distinguished.

On the one hand there were grassroots movements and civil society non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as trade unions, associations of small farmers, fishermen and consumers. They were directed against Thaksin's privatization policy, human rights violations, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the USA, and advocated environmental protection, social development and democratic rights. Some representatives of these groups had initially been supporters of the Thai-Rak-Thai Party (TRT) and Thaksin's government, helped develop their program and contributed to the success of the TRT with the population, especially in the north and northeast. They had hoped that Thaksin would turn away from the neoliberal policy of the IMF aid programs to overcome the Asian crisis of 1997 and move towards a policy that is friendly to the poor. As a result, they criticized the privatization of state-owned companies and the conclusion of free trade agreements, from which they believed only Thaksin and his clients in business circles would benefit. So it came to a break, Thaksin labeled the activists, whose support he no longer considered necessary after his election victory, as complainers and troublemakers. In addition, human rights groups denounced the massive violence in the so-called "war on drugs" and the conflict in the southern provinces . But it was mainly intellectuals and leaders of NGOs who turned away from Thaksin, while the masses of the rural population continued to support him.

The second direction was strongly royalist, conservative and nationalist. Above all, she represented the urban elite, state employees loyal to the king, and entrepreneurs who were not among Thaksin's favorites and were therefore excluded from lucrative business opportunities under his government. The “Dharma Army” of the radical Buddhist Santi Asoke sect can also be counted in this direction . Above all, the latter direction adopted the yellow color symbolism and uniformed itself with yellow shirts. Since the majority of the PAD supporters came from the urban middle class and, with Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, the two best-known representatives of this current can be assigned, this wing increasingly dominated the movement.

Despite this association with the conservative elite and urban middle class, many workers also took part in the anti-government protests in Bangkok in 2008. Some “yellow shirt” activists came from the tradition of the left student protests of the 1970s , the Communist Party of Thailand (KPT) and / or the opposition movement against the military government in 1992. During the PAD demonstrations, symbols of the political left, such as T -Shirts with the portrait of Che Guevara , videos of the Zapatistas and pro-Palestine badges sold.

Political scientist Michael K. Connors, who specializes in Thailand, distinguished between the mass movement against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from 2005 to spring 2006, which he saw as a liberal tradition, and the authoritarian royalist and military networks that were responsible for the military coup against Thaksin in September 2006 were. He described the basic orientation of the early PAD (until April 2006) as "royal liberalism". According to his account, previously progressive liberals resorted to royalist ideas, as they saw the liberal constitution of 1997 undermined by Thaksin's authoritarian style of government. Connors based this orientation on the Thai concept of the Rachaprachasamasai ("interrelationship" or "reciprocity of king and people"). Proponents of these ideas believed that king intervention was compatible with "Thai democracy" if it served the interests of the nation. For them, a government was not already legitimate when it won a mandate through elections, but it must also serve the “public good”. If the government lacks this legitimacy, power must return to the king, in cooperation with the people.

In 2008 the “yellow shirts” called for a change in the electoral system: 70% of the MPs should be appointed. As their leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, remarked in an interview, democracy is “a Western export article” and “not the right answer for Thailand”. This demand was based on the widespread fear of an uneducated people, which was also widespread among Thai liberals, who had no experience of moderate democratic practice and were susceptible to demagogic manipulation. This horrific image of "majority tyranny" took shape for supporters of the PAD in the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Although this was democratically elected and formally left the constitutional institutions untouched, it bore clearly authoritarian characteristics and undermined the democratic practice of the country.

Foundation and personnel

The five leaders of the PAD at a rally on March 17, 2006 (from left to right Somsak, Pipob, Sondhi, Somkiat, Chamlong)

As early as 2004 there was a movement of workers in state entrepreneurs against Thaksin's privatization policy under the name of the People's Alliance for Democracy. However, due to Thaksin's promise of employee participation and pension entitlements, she quickly lost her drive and disappeared from the scene.

The driving force behind the revival of the PAD in 2006 was Sondhi Limthongkul, a media entrepreneur and publisher of the Thai Manager Magazine. Sondhi was originally a business friend and supporter of Thaksin, but broke with Thaksin and became one of its toughest critics. The PAD also included well-known scientists and royalists. The latter stated that Thaksin had insulted the king several times . Civil rights groups also joined the movement, accusing Thaksin of paying no tax on the sale of his Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings and denouncing the extrajudicial killings during his "war on drugs" and the violent crackdown on the uprising in the southern Muslim provinces . Overall, the PAD was very heterogeneous.

Besides Sondhi, the five leaders included Chamlong Srimuang , a former major general, governor of Bangkok and top figure of the 1992 democracy movement. Somsak Kosaisuuk was the general secretary of the State Enterprise Workers Union (SELRC) and in 1992 also a spokesman for the alliance against the pro-military Government. Pipob Thongchai is a political activist and chairman of the non-governmental organization (NGO) “Campaign for People's Democracy”. Somkiat Pongpaiboon is a former professor at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University , Democratic Party politician and supporter of the Poor's Assembly social movement .

Prominent artists also joined the PAD. The band Caravan, known since the 1970s for protest songs of the genre Phleng phuea chiwit (a type of Thai folk rock ), played regularly at their rallies. The performance artist Vasan Sitthiket, who describes himself as an anarchist, designed T-shirts, flyers and stage decorations for the PAD and appeared at their meetings to recite poetry and play music. Another prominent supporter was the writer Angkarn Kalayanapong .

Protests in 2006

First PAD rally on February 11, 2006. On the Sondhi microphone, the banner read: "Save the nation."

On February 4, 2006, Sondhi Limthongkul organized the first mass demonstration against Thaksin under the title "Save the Nation" (Ku Chat) , during which he read out a petition to Prem Tinsulanonda , Chairman of the Privy Council . At Sondhi's protest events, other democracy groups and NGOs that had been active in the opposition to the Thaksin government for much longer were initially missing. A few days later, however, Sondhi's “Save the Nation” initiative and more than twenty anti-Thaksin pro-democratic networks, NGOs and trade union organizations, with the participation of Chamlong Srimuang, formed the People's Alliance for Democracy.

The PAD was initially divided on the question of whether Thaksin should be disempowered through intervention by the king. The proponents relied on Article 7 of the current constitution of 1997, which contains a kind of reserve rule for situations unforeseen by the constitution. In cases for which the constitutional text did not provide for a specific regulation, the basic principles of “democratic governance with the king as head of state” should apply. They interpreted this as the king's right of intervention. Sondhi and Chamlong spoke out in favor of this approach. They were supported by a petition dated March 6, 2006 by 99 scientists, senators, and state officials. The NGO and trade union wing of the PAD, led by Pipob Thongchai and Somsak Kosaisuuk, declined royal intervention. The movement threatened to break up on this question.

After a crisis meeting and a call by the well-known dissident Sulak Sivaraksa for unity, the opponents of the use of Article 7 gave in. On March 23, 2006, the PAD issued a statement calling for the king to appoint a new prime minister. A transitional government should swiftly implement political reforms and then prepare new elections. But it should also review the free trade agreements passed by Thaksin's government, stop the privatization of state-owned companies, and revise the state licenses that came with the sale of Shin Corp. to the Singapore-based Temasek Holdings. More than 100,000 people took part in the “yellow shirts” protests at the end of March.

At the end of April, however, in two speeches to judges from the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court, King Bhumibol declared that he would not use Article 7 to appoint an unelected Prime Minister: “I will never do anything that is against the Constitution or the law. Article 7 does not authorize the king to appoint a prime minister. The calls that I should appoint a prime minister are not democratic. ”Deprived of its most important demand and hope, the PAD then quickly lost its importance. The political conflict increasingly became one between Thaksin's supporters and the elite networks associated with the palace, which include state officials, lawyers, the military and business associations. Ultimately, Thaksin was overthrown by the September 2006 military coup. After the coup, the PAD disbanded voluntarily.

Protests in 2008

PAD demonstration on October 30, 2008

In December 2007, the People's Power Party (PPP), a substitute organization for Thaksin Shinawatra's now banned Thai-Rak-Thai party, won the general election. Its leader, the right-wing royalist Samak Sundaravej , became prime minister. Thereupon the PAD formed again, since they saw Samak as a mere straw man for Thaksin. The protests were fueled by dissatisfaction with the rise in consumer prices, for which the protesters blamed Samak's government. As a further important point of attack against the PPP government, the People's Alliance took its conciliatory stance towards Cambodia in the dispute over the Preah Vihear temple , which lies between the two countries. After UNESCO added the facility to its World Heritage List in July 2008 at the request of Cambodians , PAD activists invaded the disputed border area. In this way, they triggered a resurgence of the border conflict that had been dormant for decades .

Even after Samak's removal from office by the Constitutional Court because, contrary to the constitution, he had a cooking show on private television in addition to his prime ministerial office, the “yellow shirts” protests continued. The new head of government was Somchai Wongsawat , Thasksin's brother-in-law. On October 7th there were bloody clashes in front of the parliament building. Two PAD protesters died and 400 other people were injured. One of the two dead had an accident while handling explosives. Individual demonstrators used firearms and brutally attacked police officers. For their part, the security forces cracked down on the protesters. Queen Sirikit made donations to the injured "yellow shirts" and attended the funeral of a young activist. On November 20, strangers carried out a grenade attack on the demonstrators in front of the government building, in which a "yellow shirt" died.

The protests culminated on the evening of November 25, 2008 with the occupation of Suvarnabhumi Airport . A day later, the inland terminal of Don Mueang Airport was also occupied. The blockades only ended when the Constitutional Court banned the PPP and its coalition partners for violating electoral law and imposed a five-year political ban on their leading members. The militant actions of the PAD damaged the image of the tourist destination Thailand and also caused considerable economic losses.

Actions after 2008

A constitutional court ruling against the People's Power Party in December 2008 led to the collapse of the government and the takeover of government by the Democrats and Abhisit Vejjajiva . Diplomat and PAD activist Kasit Piromya became the new foreign minister. Subsequently, however, the PAD quickly alienated itself from its previously allied Democratic Party. She accused her of giving in to the border conflict with Cambodia and to the remnants of the "Thaksin regime" with whom she had formed a coalition. Instead, she founded her own party in October 2009: the Party for New Politics ( Phak Kanmueang Mai or New Politics Party , NPP). Sondhi Limthongkul became its first chairman after clearly winning an internal PAD membership survey. In May 2010, however, he resigned and handed over the chairmanship to Somsak Kosaisuuk. Only a few hundred, but no more than 2000, supporters took part in the PAD protest actions in March 2011. Thaksin opponents from the urban middle class were deterred by the aggressive nationalist rhetoric and fixation on the Preah Vihear dispute, and Democratic voters by the harsh attacks on the Abhisit government.

Before the parliamentary elections in 2011 , there was a dispute over the direction of the PAD. While Sondhi called for an election boycott as part of an extra-parliamentary opposition strategy, the temporary resignation of all party politicians (including those of the NPP) and the appointment of an independent cabinet of experts by the king, Somsak wanted to run for elections with his party to win parliamentary seats. He described the radical project of Sondhi and the PAD majority as undemocratic and "coup-like". As a result, Somsak resigned from the PAD, while Sondhi resigned from the NPP, so that one can no longer be seen as the party-political wing of the other.

The remaining PAD asked the voters to make use of the Thai suffrage to vote against all candidates (so-called "Vote No"). To this end, she started a campaign that depicted wild animals in politician suits with the slogan "Do not let these animals into parliament". In doing so, she showed that she now completely rejects party democracy. Tigers, monkeys, dogs, crocodiles, water buffalos and monitor lizards were depicted , to which Thai proverbs attribute negative properties or which are even swear words.

On June 1, 2012, around 2,000 PAD supporters blocked the Thai House of Representatives . In doing so, they expressed their protest against a controversial law of reconciliation, which they suspected was intended to prepare the return of Thaksin Shinawatra from exile.


On August 24, 2013, the eight remaining first and second generation PAD leaders announced their resignation. They stated that they wanted to clear the way for a reorganization of the opposition forces against Thaksin. The “People's Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism” (Pefot), whose leadership consisted essentially of former PAD activists, had previously formed as a new group active against Thaksin. This was one of the core groups of the recent mass protests of 2013/14 .

The most prominent leader of the PAD, Sondhi Limthongkul, was convicted of lese majesty on October 1, 2013 for repeating statements made by the opposing “ red shirt ” activist Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (“Da Torpedo”) at a 2008 meeting of the Movement , for which she later repeated Was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Web links

Commons : People's Alliance for Democracy  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Michael K. Connors: Article of Faith: The Failure of Royal Liberalism in Thailand. (PDF file; 234 kB) In: Journal of Contemporary Asia. Vol. 38, No. 1, February 2008, pp. 143-165.
  • Michael H. Nelson : People's Alliance for Democracy. From 'New Politics' to a 'Real' Political Party? In: Legitimacy Crisis and Political Conflict in Thailand. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2010, pp. 119–159.
  • Puangthong R. Pawakapan: State and Uncivil Society in Thailand at the Temple of Preah Vihear. ISEAS Publishing, Singapore 2013.
  • Oliver Pye, Wolfram Schaffar: The 2006 anti-Thaksin movement in Thailand. An analysis. In: Journal of Contemporary Asia , Volume 38, No. 1, 2008, pp. 38-61, doi : 10.1080 / 00472330701651945

Individual evidence

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  7. Puangthong R. Pawakapan: State and Uncivil Society in Thailand. 2013, pp. 58–59.
  8. ^ Philip J. Cunningham: The Long Winding Red Road to Ratchaprasong and Thailand's Future. In: The Asia-Pacific Journal. May 17, 2010.
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  12. a b Connors: Article of Faith. 2008, p. 144.
  13. Connors: Article of Faith. 2008, p. 158.
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  16. Charles McDermid, Jakkapun Kaewsangthong: Thai protesters take uneasy time out. In: Asia Times , December 4, 2008.
  17. Clare Veal: Collective Ruptures. Visually Documenting the Precarious Nature of Thai Politics after 2010. ( Memento of the original from December 1, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Modern Art Asia. No. 11, November 2012, p. 16.
  18. Passionate poet Angkarn 'breathed poems'. In: The Nation , August 26, 2012.
  19. Connors: Article of Faith. 2008, p. 158.
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  23. Connors: Article of Faith. 2008, p. 160.
  24. a b c d Volker Grabowsky: Brief history of Thailand. CH Beck, 2010, pp. 190f.
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  30. Reuters, Thai protesters storm airport control tower , November 26, 2008
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  35. Somsak vetoes PAD demand for NPP poll boycott. In: Bangkok Post , April 29, 2011.
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