The Big Question: Will the ending of the airport sit-in resolve the Thai crisis?

Why are we asking this now?

Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, flights from Bangkok's main international airport will resume, after Thai anti-government protesters agreed to end their occupation, allowing thousands of stranded tourists to leave. The unrest has left thousands of British holidaymakers furious, stranded in paradise, and the crisis has raised major fears that one of South-east Asia's healthiest democracies could slide into chaos and anarchy.

Protesters from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a loose alliance of big business interests, Bangkok's upper-middle-class and those who dislike the politics of the former prime minister and ex-Manchester City FC owner Thaksin Shinawatra, occupied the Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's office in the city's government district two months ago, and last week stormed Suvarnabhumi International airport and the mostly domestic Don Muang airport.

The protesters agreed to disperse after the Constitutional Court dissolved Mr Somchai's government, yesterday after finding three of the six parties in the ruling coalition guilty of buying votes in the 2007 election which brought it to power. The grins are getting thin in a country known as the Land of Smiles.

What will the government do now?

Even in a country used to dealing with a significant degree of instability – it has witnessed 18 coups or attempted coups in 76 years of stop-start democracy – recent events have given a sense of a country unravelling into something far worse. So for the time being, there is no government as the country's highest court has dissolved it. Most commentators believe the government may simply be reincarnated under a different name, which would prompt more protests and wider instability.

The first issue on the agenda of whoever takes over the reins will be tourism: losses in this crucial business could run to 150bn baht (£2.8bn), about 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product. And there are broader fears that the unrest could worsen the impact of the global slowdown and tip the export-driven economy into recession.

The army have a big role in this, right?

Absolutely. In September 2006 the military staged a coup while Mr Thaksin was at the UN headquarters in New York, and the political tumult has not eased since then. Early on in the crisis, the army commander, General Anupong Paochinda, called for snap elections and for the opposition to end their occupation of the airports, which would have left the military in control and would be a de facto coup.

What about the King?

King Bhumibol Adulyadej tends to try to distance himself from domestic conflicts, he only intervenes when it is absolutely necessary. He is due to address the nation tomorrow, on the eve of his 81st birthday, and the beloved monarch's speech will be closely watched for clues on how the country will be ruled from now on. He is the most important political figure in Thailand, and anything he says goes. However, the succession issue is high on the agenda.

It's a safe bet that he has no interest in intervening in the current crisis. His wife Queen Sirikit attended the funeral of an anti-government protester killed in clashes with police. The Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is linked in the popular imagination to Mr Thaksin, which is interpreted by some as a sign the royal family is divided on how to resolve the current crisis.

So, how can itbe resolved?

This is indeed an incredibly complicated situation. The anti-government protesters want what they call a "new politics", which would involve an appointed parliament dominated by bureaucrats and the army. Even though Mr Somchai was democratically elected, they believe he, Mr Thaksin and their supporters have been using a large war chest from their considerable business interests to buy votes in the countryside and in the north of the country, and that the straight vote system works against them. They say Mr Thaksin's strong control of the media puts them at a disadvantage.

Pro-government supporters have become very active in the past few days, staging rallies wearing red shirts and headbands. On the surface, they look like exact counterparts of the anti-government protesters – the pro-government lobby uses clapping-heart toys instead of the clapping-hand toys of the opposition, and wear red rather than yellow shirts. But the difference is striking in terms of demographics – this is a much poorer crowd, made up of taxi drivers, labourers and people from the countryside. In contrast to the "yellow" protests, few on the "red" side speak English and the movement seems less well-equipped.

Ultimately, Mr Thaksin and his successors are democratically elected, vote-buying or not, which makes it difficult to predict what will happen.

Will there be civil war?

Fears that Thailand could spill over into total civil war arise from the political gulf between the Bangkok elite and middle classes, who revile Mr Thaksin, and the majority rural and urban poor who loved his populist style. Mr Somchai's government moved to Chiang Mai, its northern stronghold, after anti-government protesters occupied the PM's office in downtown Bangkok. It truly highlighted the regional divide in Thailand.

The opposition wants to unseat Mr Somchai's government because it says Mr Somchai is a puppet of Mr Thaksin, his brother-in-law. Mr Thaksin and his allies stand accused of corruption and abuse of power, and Mr Thaksin is now in exile, probably in Dubai, a fugitive from a conviction for violating a conflict of interest law. The latest speculation is that Potjaman Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin's wife, will be back to take over the reins at the head of the political movement he founded, but with which he cannot be officially linked. Expect more instability in Thailand for the time being.

Will the airport protesters ever get what they want?

Yes...

* The PAD have huge numbers of supporters buoyed by the success of the airport stand-off.

* They have successfully forced out the Prime Minister – their key demand has already been satisfied.

* The protesters are not hated – they offered refreshments to passengers inconvenienced by their protest.

No...

* Democracy work against the anti-government movement. Mr Thaksin maintains popular support.

* The army has not intervened, but a coup would just lead to an election, which Mr Thaksin's people will win.

* The protesters have not yet received the explicit support of the royal family, whose help they need.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
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: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'