Protestors took to the streets of Bangkok as supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra demanded the current government be dissolved and new elections held. Though raucous and featuring the symbolic splattering of blood on the gates of the country's administrative headquarters, Government House, the demonstrations were largely peaceful.
As a long-time friend of Thailand, the United States is watching the situation there closely. As Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said in Bangkok on March 12, the United States hopes that political differences can be dealt with in an appropriate way through the electoral process and through other democratic institutions.
An estimated 100,000 protestors began gathering in Bangkok that day to press demands that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call elections now rather than late next year. They blame the Thai army and senior government officials for the collapse of a pro-Thaksin government in late 2008. Security was heavy throughout the city to prevent a repeat of protests last year that spun out of control, killing two people.
The standoff is the latest confrontation in a deep split that has roiled the nation since 2006, when Thaksin was deposed in a non-violent coup backed by the military. A series of pro- and anti-Thaksin governments have traded power since then, usually as a result of strikes and demonstrations.
As the parties confront their differences, it is hoped that this week's symbolic tossing of blood is the only bloodshed in the confrontation. Peaceful demonstrations are a hallmark of democratic society. Protestors and their leaders must avoid the use of violence. We urge all sides to exercise appropriate restraint as well.