Amazing food, pristine beaches, cheap shopping and nonstop nightlife. To outsiders, Thailand is a sybaritic place. So why are its streets overrun with color-coded protestors every few years, seeking to overthrow the state?
To better understand Thailand’s polarized political realm, look no further than one man — exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The ex-police officer, business tycoon and political demagogue mobilized Thailand’s rural heartland to propel himself to the nation’s highest political office. But his brazen leadership style forged enmity with the country’s Bangkok-based traditional elites: the yellow shirts. His removal from office during a 2006 military coup marshaled his allies: the red shirts.