Thai fury forces Old Etonian into hiding

Premier camping out in military base and rarely sees his family as Red Shirt protests show no sign of stopping

From the very moment that Abhisit Vejjajiva was elected prime minister of Thailand by a special vote of parliament in 2008, the British-born Eton-educated politician has been fighting off one crisis after the other.

First there were claims about the fairness of his appointment, secondly there was a mounting economic meltdown with which to contend and then just months after he was elected, opposition campaigners held a series of demonstrations in Bangkok that saw the country's worst street violence for two decades. Two people were killed and many more injured.

But now the 45-year-old, who is said to support Newcastle United Football Club and to enjoy the works of Albert Camus, may be facing his toughest challenge yet. After two weeks of demonstrations which saw thousands of the Red Shirts opposition take to the streets of Bangkok and hurl blood – which they had queued up to donate to the protest – at his home and office, reports suggest that events have taken a toll on the premier. He is forced to live and work in a military base and rare-ly sees his family.

With the Red Shirts promising yet more demonstrations in the capital, the head of the 15-month-old government will receive ever increasing demands for him to dissolve the parliament and call an early election – an election his opponents are certain they would win.

"It is not easy going for him. The demonstrations are serious because they show that the Red Shirts have not gone away," said Giles Ji Ungpakorn, said a dissident academic who fled Thailand to live in Britain. "The Red Shirts are increasingly using the language of class and it shows that the government does not enjoy the support of the ordinary people. Everything the government has done to try and legitimise the manoeuvring that led to Abhisit's appointment has not worked in the eyes of the people."

Mr Abhisit, head of the Democrat Party, became prime minister in December 2008 amid a constitutional crisis that followed a court's decision to outlaw three parties that made up the ruling coalition.

Even as he secured his position by a 235 to 198 vote in the parliament, opposition activists blocked access to the building and smashed the windows of MPs' cars. His most immediate challenge comes this Saturday when the Red Shirts – most of them supporters of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – plan to hold yet another demonstration in Bangkok. Experts say that when up to 150,000 demonstrators gathered on 14 March, they received an unusual amount of support from residents of the capital.

The display of political muscle is deemed important by the opposition, which is convinced it has the numbers to secure victory in parliamentary polls, which have to be called by the end of next year. For all of Mr Abhisit's confident rhetoric of winning the election, some analysts believe it is remarkable that the opposition is even active after last year's street violence.

"The Red Shirts shouldn't even be a viable movement. People shouldn't be touching them with a barge pole, you would've thought, after what they did to Bangkok last year," Supavud Saicheua, managing director of Phatra Securities, told Reuters. "But a year later they are back stronger, with a better message, more convincing, and able to get cheers from people in Bangkok."

Others say Thailand's political turmoil will continue until the main grievances of the Red Shirts – greater empowerment of poorer rural voters who were lured by Mr Thaksin's populist policies such as cheap loans – are met. Such conservative elements, including the military and those close to the country's royal family, are unlikely to surrender such influence easily and the opposition is likely to continue.

One thing is for certain: for Mr Abhisit nothing is going to get any easier any time soon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living