Thailand has been gripped by bouts of political instability since 2006, with Thaksin’s supporters and opponents taking turns to spar over who has the right to rule the country.
The most violent episode came in 2010, when Thaksin’s ‘‘Red Shirt’’ supporters led a two-month occupation of central Bangkok to demand the resignation of an anti-Thaksin government. The protests led to a military crackdown that left at least 91 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.
Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008, when he jumped bail to evade a corruption conviction and two-year jail term. He retains huge popularity among the rural poor, who want to see him pardoned and returned to power. But he is reviled by the urban elite and educated middle class, who see him as authoritarian and a threat to the monarchy.
Buoyed by Thaksin’s political machine, Yingluck was elected by a landslide victory in August 2011. She initially was criticized for her lack of political experience — she was an executive in Shinawatra family businesses — but has won praise for leading the country through one of its longest peaceful periods in recent years.
Associated Press photographer Sakchai Lalitkanjanakul contributed to this report.