It has all the ingredients of a daytime soap; dynasties, vindictive personalities, excessive greed, sudden plot twists, and karma.

But Thailand’s political drama is no work of fiction and makes for troubling viewing, writes Dr John Blaxland in a special essay for the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s elections, Blaxland – a former Australia defence attaché to Thailand – tries to unpack the reasons why “such jarring images of hatred, death, demagogic leadership anti-democratic behaviour” are sullying the so-called land of smiles.

Looking beyond the black and white assessment of ‘red versus yellow’, Blaxland outlines a number of factors: Thaksin’s place as the champion of the poor and greediest prime minister ever, Suthep’s appeal in Bangkok, and whether democracy can work in a Buddhist state.

Read the full essay here.