Student activism in Thailand had grown during the 1960s as the number of students in university increased rapidly. In 1971, the Thanom Kittikachorn government launched a coup and restored authoritarian rule by disbanding the national legislature, terminating the 1968 constitution, and proclaiming martial law. On 15 December 1972, a new constitution was established that gave Prime Minister Thanom and his National Executive Council extensive power, but promised to return the country to democracy as soon as the communist threat was eliminated.
In 2001, Thaksin
Shinawatra was elected the Prime Minister of Thailand and was the first one to
serve a full term in that role. In March 2005, Thaksin was reelected in a
landslide victory, with more than 60% of the popular vote. As the leader of the
Thai Rak Thai (TRT, Thais love Thais) party, Thaksin’s neo-liberalist, populist
policies made him very popular with the majority of Thais, especially the rural
poor. However, his autocratic style, numerous human rights violations and favor
towards privatization created opposition from urban elites, NGOs, and royalist
Although Thailand has had a constitution since 1932, the stability of the country’s political structure is questionable. For instance, the country has had 17 different constitutions over this time period with government forms ranging from dictatorship to democracy. In addition, the country rarely has a prime minister who is able to serve a full term without being ousted, and corruption at the highest levels is a constant problem.
The country of Thailand has experienced several conflicts between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority. In the decade of the 1970s tensions rose in the southern Thai region of Pattani. In late 1975 six young Muslims were traveling in a car through Pattani when they were stopped by soldiers. They were arrested, apparently for further questioning, but in fact were taken to a bridge, stabbed, and their bodies were thrown into the river. A fifteen year-old boy survived and swam ashore. The boy told other Muslims what had happened.