"Thailand is a long-time military ally and a significant trade and economic partner for the United States. For many years, Thailand was seen as a model democracy in Southeast Asia, although this image, along with U.S.-Thai relations, has been complicated by deep political and economic instability in the wake of two military coups in the past nine years. […] Thai politics has been contentious for more than a decade, mainly because of the rivalry between Thaksin's supporters and opponents. Many of Thaksin's supporters hail from the poorer, more rural areas of northern Thailand, and they have benefited from populist policies launched by Thaksin and his supporters. Parties loyal to Thaksin have won the last six nationwide elections including several that took place after the 2006 coup, but a series of prime ministers have been removed, either via coup or court action. Thaksin's opponents--a mix of conservative royalists, military figures, and Bangkok elites--have refused to accept the results of these elections. Both Thaskin's opponents (loosely known as 'Yellow Shirts') and his supporters ('Red Shirts') have staged large-scale protests, which have become violent at times. In 2010, demonstrations led to riots in Bangkok and other cities, and the worst street violence in Thailand in decades. […] The United States and the international community have raised other concerns about Thailand, mainly having to do with human trafficking, the large refugee population living within the country's borders, and human rights and democracy conditions."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32593