Urban Thais overthrow Prime Minister Thaksin, Thailand, 2005-2006


To remove the Prime Minister from office and dismantle the Thaksin regime through a new round of constitutional reform by petitioning King Bhumibol for the application of his Royal Prerogative

Time period

September, 2005 to 4 April, 2006



Location City/State/Province

Jump to case narrative


People's Alliance for Democracy, Sondhi Limthongkul


Not known

External allies

Luang Ta Maha Bua

Involvement of social elites

Sondhi Limthongkul, Luang Ta Maha Bua, King Bhumibol Adulyadej


Thaksin and his supporting party Thai Rak Thai

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Rural poor going to Bangkok to stage pro-Thaksin demonstrations leading up to April elections

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Not known





Group characterization

Buddhist monks
Bangkok upper class royalists
state enterprise employees
civil rights groups

Groups in 1st Segment

Sondhi Limthongkul
Luang Ta Maha Bua

Groups in 4th Segment

FTA Watch (grassroots organization)

Groups in 5th Segment

People's Alliance for Democracy

Groups in 6th Segment

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (intervention)

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

On the last day, the King brought about the resolution of conflict through a private meeting with Thaksin.

Segment Length

Approximately 1 month

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

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
civil servants.

Sondhi Limthongkul was a media mogul, the owner of the Manager Media Group, and he was a former
Thaksin supporter turned opposition. In September 2005, the government removed
Sondhi’s talk show from the state TV channel due to its frequent accusations of
government corruption.  Sondhi then
launched a massive 4-month protest campaign using his media empire of cable TV,
newspapers, magazines, books, CDs, and websites in order to build political

Sondhi turned his TV show into a weekly broadcast on his website. On
27 September 2005, his newspaper, the Manager Daily, published a sermon by
popular monk Luang Ta Maha Bua, another previous Thaksin supporter turned
critic, who accused Thaksin was aiming for the presidency. Another article
claimed Thaksin had presided over a ceremony at the holy Temple of the Emerald
Buddha. Both allegations implied Thaksin was attempting to usurp the King’s power.
In response, Thaksin sued Sondhi for libel. However, the King made a rare
intervention and reprimanded Thaksin for his lawsuit, after which Thaksin
withdrew his case.

On 11 January 2006, a coalition of NGOs called FTA Watch organized a rally 10,000 strong
in Chiangmai to protest free trade agreements talks between the US and
Thailand. The demonstration became militant when the protesters broke through
police lines and stormed the FTA meeting. On 14 January, hundreds of protesters led by
Sondhi occupied the government building at midnight for twenty minutes.

On 23 January 2006, the Thaksin family sold their 49.6% stake in the Shin Corporation, a
major Thai telecommunications company, to the Temasek Holdings, a Singapore
investment company in a 1.88 billion tax free transaction. This generated
public outrage over corruption and Thaksin “selling out” to foreigners. Sondhi used
this opportunity to organize a demonstration on 4 February in the Royal Plaza that
attracted 50,000 protesters. Four days later, on 8 February, Sondhi and other
opposition leaders formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The party’s
goals were to remove the prime minister from office.

On 24 February, Thaksin
agreed to an election in April. In response to the demonstrations, pro-Thaksin
counter-rallies had begun in early February. Leaders of the TRT hired people and
organized mass demonstrations of support in northern provinces of Thailand,
where Thaksin had a strong base in the rural poor. For the start of Thaksin’s
election campaign on 3 March, 300 TRT representatives and 75 governors were
assigned quotas to draft 10,000 supporters each. Hundreds of thousands of
people were bused in to Sana Luang, Bangkok, to hear Thaksin’s campaign

On 2 March, two
villager groups from the north, calling themselves the “Caravan of Buggies” and
the “Caravan of the Poor,” each around 2000 strong, started widely publicized
marches to the capital to support Thaksin. Two weeks later, they arrived at
Bangkok and settled in Chatuchak Park. Combined with hired taxi
drivers, tens of thousands of people proclaimed support for Thaksin and called
for continued policies to address the plight of the poor.

A series of
anti-Thaksin rallies occurred in Bangkok on 11 February, 26 February, and 5 March. On
14 March, to try to force Thaksin to resign before the election, the PAD led
100,000 state enterprise workers to march from Sana Luang to the Government
House and blockaded the Government House for several hours. They held another
rally there on 25 March. On 29 March, PAD held a rally in the the tourist
shopping district of Siam Square and occupied it for two days in order to
pressure the passive business sector there. Faced with resistance from
Thaksin’s supporters, Sondhi convinced the PAD to modify their objectives to
demand royal intervention from King Bhumibol to remove Thaksin from office.

The Caravan of the
Poor finally went back home to vote in the 2 April election. On
3 April, Thaksin announced his victory on national television,
with 56% of the popular vote, 16 million votes out of 29 million cast. That
night however, King Bhumibol Adulyadej intervened and had a private meeting
with Thaksin. The next day, Thaksin announced that he would resign, but would
continue to act as Prime Minister until a successor was elected by the Parliament.
He claimed he resigned out of respect for the king’s 60th
anniversary in two months. The king made a speech on 25 April advising that the
election results be annulled, but he refused PAD’s request to appoint a prime
minister himself, calling it “undemocratic.” Led by General Sonthi
Boonyaratglin, the Royal Thai Army overthrew Thaksin in a military coup on
19 September 2006.


Tejapira, Kasian. "Toppling Thaksin." New Left Review 39 (2006): 5.

Pye, Oliver, and Wolfram Schaffar. "The 2006 anti-Thaksin movement in Thailand: An analysis." Journal of Contemporary Asia 38.1 (2008): 38-61.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Meiri Anto, 26/02/2013