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Background - What is the PAD?

Article published on the 2008-09-17 Latest update 2008-09-17 14:41 TU

A group of protesters from the PAD in Bangkok, 2 August 2008.(Photo: Mark Micallef, creative commons)

A group of protesters from the PAD in Bangkok, 2 August 2008.
(Photo: Mark Micallef, creative commons)

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is a protest coalition of conservative, urban, monarchist and military elements of Thai society formed to force Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office in 2006. It continues its protests against the People's Power Party (PPP), which it claims is a front for Thaksin.

The PAD was formally established in February 2006 as a political movement inspired by a radio show that, after being dropped by a major radio station, gained notoriety for its anti-government tone on the internet.

The show was hosted by Sondhi Limthongkul, who became the movement’s first leader, and broadened the coalition to include some Buddhist religious figures. Its protests over Thaksin’s corruption and land reforms eventually led to a bloodless military coup on 19 September 2006.

The PAD is often characterised as representing the élite elements of Thailand: the urban and wealthy business interests. The Bangkok Post began referring to it as the "Blue Blood Jet Set" in 2006.  

The alliance coalesced around opposition to economic reforms and social programmes proposed by Thaksin and his party, Thai Rak Thai. Elected in a landslide in 2001, and re-elected by a large majority in 2005, Thaksin’s popularity was drawn largely from poor rural areas.

Thaksin proposed a wide variety of social programmes collectively referred to as Thaksinomics: low-interest agricultural loans, subsidised universal health care and cheap generic Aids drug production. He also embarked on a series of tax decentralisations and educational reforms.

The PAD opposes these reforms, saying that the Thailand’s economic recovery and poverty reduction were not the results of Thaksin’s policies, but of robust exports and free-trade deals signed with neighbours.

"Representative democracy is not suitable for Thailand," wrote Sondhi in the American newsmagazine Newsweek in 2007. He argues that Thailand’s flawed electoral systems have repeatedly elected corrupt populist governments.

The PAD proposes constitutional reforms that will transform Parliament into a body where 70 per cent of representatives are appointed by the King. The other 30 per cent would be divided among the different ethnic and religious segments of the Thai population.

After the 2006 coup, a court banned Thai Rak Thai. A new party, the People's Power Party was formed and, after a new election in 2007, was able to form a coalition government.

Renewed protests were called by PAD in May 2008 in opposition to Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who the PAD claims was acting as a proxy for Thaksin.