April 17 (Reuters) – The founder of Thailand’s “yellow shirt” protest movement, which was behind the week-long occupation of Bangkok’s main airports late last year, was shot and wounded early on Friday, a spokesman for his movement said.
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Sondhi Limthongkul’s People’s Alliance for Democracy was not involved in the country’s latest bout of political violence when red-shirted supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra laid siege and faced off with a new group wearing dark blue T-shirts.
Here are some questions and answers about the main extra-parliamentary groups and the different colours they have adopted for their activists on the street.
WHAT DO THE RED SHIRTS WANT?
Supporters of ousted leader Thaksin, they want Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign and the holding of new elections, which they would be well placed to win.
The “red-shirts” invaded the venue of an Asian summit in the resort town of Pattaya last weekend forcing the cancellation of the meeting.
The protests ended on Tuesday when the activists, who had been occupying the grounds of Government House, surrendered to the hundreds of troops surrounding the building, the main office of Abhisit.
Their action echoed the tactics of Sondhi’s anti-Thaksin “yellow shirts”, who occupied it for several months last year.
WHO ARE THE YELLOW SHIRTS?
The yellow shirts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) were not involved in recent clashes but were gearing up to join in if the red shirts looked like winning.
The PAD is an extra-parliamentary group of royalists, academics, former military people and Bangkok’s middle classes united in their loathing of Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire who draws his support from the rural poor.
The PAD’s colour honours Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej — many Thais wear yellow on Mondays, the day on which the king was born.
Last year, when a pro-Thaksin government was in power, yellow-tinged protests — involving another siege of Government House that lasted for months — turned ugly and a state of emergency was enforced for a couple of weeks in September.
Their most audacious and disruptive action was the storming of Bangkok’s two main airports in late November, stranding up to 250,000 foreign tourists and cutting the country’s main international link for over a week.
The yellow shirts ended their protests in December, claiming victory when the the constitutional court disqualified the pro-Thaksin prime minister for electoral fraud.
WHO ARE THE NEW MOB IN BLUE SHIRTS RISE
Last week in Pattaya, a new group wearing dark blue T-shirts bearing the phrase “Protect the Institution” — thought to be a reference to the monarchy — clashed with the red shirts.
The identity and aims of the masked men in blue shirts armed with sticks, clubs and iron rods remain unclear. Red shirts have accused them of being a militia of pro-government thugs, perhaps affiliated to the military. The government denies this.
WHAT’S BENEATH THE SHIRTS?
A deeply divided country, which has seen 18 coups since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
Thailand has been in a state of political crisis on or off since late 2005, when the streets protests that eventually helped oust Thaksin began.
For a TIMELINE of the turmoil click on [ID:BKK457262]
The media-friendly colour coding has kept the groups in the public eye and brings back memories of revolutions in Eastern Europe — Ukraine’s 2004-2005 “Orange Revolution”, for example — although those places never had such a colour clash. (Writing by Gillian Murdoch; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)