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Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra ( , ; , by the media; born 26 July 1949) is a Thai businessman who was Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006, when he was depose in a military coup and convicted in absentia for a conflict of interest. He was born in Chiang Mai Provincemarker, Thailandmarker, and started his career in the police. He later became a successful telecom entrepreneur and one of the richest people in Thailand.

He entered politics in 1994 and founded the populist Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998. After a landslide election victory in 2001, he became prime minister, the country’s first to serve a full term.Thaksin introduced a range of partly effective and highly popular policies to alleviate rural poverty. He launched the country's first universal healthcare program, the 30-baht scheme, as well as drastic social order and drug suppression campaigns.

His re-election in 2005 had the highest voter turnout in Thai history. His main support base is in the north and northeast of Thailand.

The Shinawatra government also faced allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, treason, conflicts of interest, acting non-diplomatically, and muzzling of the press. Thaksin was accused of tax evasion, lèse majesté and selling national assets to international investors. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, criticized Thaksin's human rights record.

Massive protests occurred in 2006, and on 19 September 2006 a military junta overthrew Thaksin's government in a bloodless coup while he was abroad. The CNS-appointed constitutional tribunal dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party for electoral fraud, banning him and TRT's executives from politics for five years. The CNS-appointed Assets Examination Committee froze 76 billion baht ($2.2 billion) of his assets in Thailand, claiming he had become unusually wealthy while in office. Thaksin and his family have declared assets totaling 15.1 billion baht when he took office in 2001. To date, no legal judgments have yet been made about his wealth.

Thaksin returned to Thailand on 28 February 2008, after the TRT's successor party won the post-coup elections. But after visiting Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, he did not return to hear charges and applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. In October, the Supreme Court found him guilty of a conflict of interest and sentenced him in absentia to 2 years in jail. In late 2008, Arabian Business reported after an exclusive interview that the UK froze $4.2 billion of his assets in the UK. However, the UK government has not confirmed or denied this claim.

In April 2009, Thaksin supported protests by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, demanding Thaksin be allowed to return free from all the earlier corruption charges.The Government revoked Thaksin's passport for his role in inciting the protests on 11 April 2009 that caused the cancellation of the ASEAN in Pattaya and subsequent rioting. Thaksin denied leading the UDD, claiming he only gave them "moral support."

Thaksin married Potjaman Damapong in 1980. They have one son, Panthongtae and two daughters, Pintongtha and Peathongtarn. They divorced in 2008.

Family background

Thaksin's great-great-grandfather Seng Sae Khu was a Hakka Chinese immigrant from Meizhoumarker, Guangdongmarker who arrived in Siammarker in the 1860s and settled in Chiang Mai in 1908. His eldest son, Chiang Sae Khu, was born in 1890 and married a Thai woman, Saeng Somna. Chiang's eldest son, Sak, adopted the Thai surname Shinawatra ("does good routinely") in 1938, and the rest of the family followed suit.

Thaksin's father, Lert, was born in Chiang Mai in 1919 and married Yindi Ramingwong. In 1968, Lert Shinawatra entered politics and became an MP for Chiang Mai.

Seng Sae Khu made his fortune through tax farming. The Khu/Shinawatra family later founded Shinawatra Silks and then moved into finance, construction and property development. Lert Shinawatra opened a coffee shop and several businesses, and grew oranges and flowers in Chiang Maimarker's San Kamphaengmarker district. By the time Thaksin was born, the Shinawatra family was one of the richest and most influential in Chiang Mai.

Early life

Thaksin was born in San Kamphaengmarker, Chiang Mai. He lived in the village of Sankamphaeng until he was 15, then moved to Chiang Mai city to study at Montfort College. At 16, he helped run one of his father's cinemas.

Police career

Thaksin attended the 10th class of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School , and was then admitted to the Thai Police Cadet Academy. Upon graduation in 1973 he joined the Royal Thai Police Department. He reveived a master's degree in Criminal Justice from Eastern Kentucky Universitymarker in the United Statesmarker in 1975 and three years later was awarded a doctorate in Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State Universitymarker in Texasmarker. Returning to Thailand, he reached the position of Deputy Superintendent of the Policy and Planning Sub-division, General Staff Division, Metropolitan Police Bureau, before resigning in 1987 as a lieutenant colonel. He married Potjaman Damapong, daughter of a police general, in 1980.

Business career

Early ventures

Thaksin and his wife ventured into several businesses while he was still in the police, including a silk shop, a movie theater, and an apartment building. All were failures and left him over 50 million baht in debt. He established ICSI in 1982 and, using his police contacts, leased computers to government agencies with modest success. But later ventures in security systems (SOS) and public bus radio services (Bus Sound) failed. In April 1986, he founded Advanced Info Service (AIS), which started off as a computer rental business.

In 1987 he resigned from the police. Afterwards, he marketed a romance drama called "Baan Sai Thong", which became a popular success in theaters. In 1988 he joined Pacific Telesis to operate and market the PacLink pager service, a modest success although Thaksin later sold his stake to establish his own paging company. In 1989 Thaksin launched IBC, a cable television company, which lost money and later merged with the CP Group's UTV. In 1989, Thaksin established a data networking service, Shinawatra DataCom, today known as Advanced Data Network and owned by AIS and the TOT. Many of Thaksin's businesses were later consolidated as Shin Corp.

Advance Info Service and later ventures

Founded in April 1986, Advanced Info Service (AIS) started off as a computer rental business. In October 1990, it launched analog 900 MHz mobile phone services with a 20 year concession monopoly from the Telephone Organization of Thailand, and later became the first company allowed to operate on the GSM 900 frequency. The mobile phone boom in Thailand was just beginning, with Total Access Communications receiving a concession a month later for the GSM 1800 frequency. AIS grew rapidly and was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in November 1991. It established a GSM network in 1994 and eventually became the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand.

The Shinawatra Computer and Communications Group was founded in 1987 and listed in 1990.

In 1990, Thaksin founded Shinawatra Satellite, which has developed and operated four Thaicom communications satellites.

In 1999, the Shinawatra family spent some 1 billion baht establishing Shinawatra Universitymarker in Pathum Thanimarker. It offered international programs in engineering, architecture, and business management.

In 2000, Thaksin acquired the ailing iTV television station from the Crown Property Bureau, Nation Multimedia Group, and Siam Commercial Bank.

Entry into politics

Political debut

Thaksin entered politics in late 1994 through Chamlong Srimuang, who had just reclaimed the position of Palang Dharma Party (PDP) leader from Boonchu Rojanastien. In a subsequent purge of Boonchu-affiliated PDP Cabinet ministers, Thaksin was appointed Foreign Minister in December 1994, replacing Prasong Soonsiri. Years later, in 2006 after Thaksin was removed from power, Chamlong Srimuang expressed regret at getting "such a corrupt person" into politics. The PDP soon withdrew from the government over the Sor Por Kor 4-01 land reform corruption scandal, causing the government of Chuan Leekpai to collapse.

PDP leader and Deputy Prime Minister under Banharn

Chamlong, strongly criticized for mishandling internal PDP politics in the last days of the Chuan-government, retired from politics and hand-picked Thaksin as new PDP leader. Thaksin ran for election for the first time for the constitutional tribunal and lost.

Thaksin joined the government of Banharn Silpa-Archa and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Bangkok traffic. In May 1996, he and four other PDP ministers quit the Banharn Cabinet (while retaining their MP seats), prompting a Cabinet reshuffle. Many have claimed that Thaksin's move was designed to help give Chamlong Srimuang a boost in the June 1996 Bangkok Governor elections, which Chamlong returned from retirement to contest. But Chamlong lost to Bhichit Rattakul, an independent.

Chamlong's failure to buttress the PDP's failing power base in Bangkok amplified divisions in the PDP, particularly between Chamlong's "temple" faction and Thaksin's. Soon afterwards, Chamlong announced he was retiring again from politics.

Thaksin and the PDP pulled out of the Banharn-government in August 1996. In a subsequent no-confidence debate, the PDP gave evidence against the Banharn government, and in September 1996 Banharn dissolved Parliament.

Thaksin announced he would not run in the subsequent November 1996 elections but would remain as leader of the PDP. It suffered a fatal defeat in the elections, winning only 1 seat, and soon imploded, with most members resigning.

Deputy Prime Minister under Chavalit

On 15 August 1997, Thaksin became Deputy Prime Minister in Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's government, after the Thai baht was floated and devalued on 2 July 1997, sparking the Asian Financial Crisis. He held the position for only 3 months, leaving on 14 November when Chavalit resigned.

During a censure debate on 27 September 1997, Democrat Suthep Thaugsuban accused Thaksin of profiting from insider information about the government's decision to float the baht., but the next Democrat party-led government did not investigate the accusations.

During this period, Thaksin also served on the Asia Advisory Board of the Washington D.C. based Carlyle Group until he resigned upon becoming Prime Minister in 2001.

The Thai Rak Thai Party and the 2001 elections

Thaksin founded the Thai Rak Thai ("Thais Love Thais" - TRT) party in 1998 along with Somkid Jatusripitak, PDP ally Sudarat Keyuraphan, Purachai Piumsombun, and 19 others.

With a populist platform often attributed to Somkid, TRT promised universal access to healthcare, a 3-year debt moratorium for farmers, and 1 million THB locally-managed development funds for all Thai villages.

After Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai dissolved parliament in November 2000, TRT won a sweeping victory in the January 2001 elections, the first held under the Constitution of 1997. At the time, some academics called it the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history. Thai Rak Thai won 248 parliamentary seats (more than any other party previously) and needed only 3 more seats to form a government. Nonetheless, Thaksin opted for a broad coalition to gain total control and avoid a vote of no confidence, with the Chart Thai Party (41 seats) and the New Aspiration Party (36 seats), while absorbing the smaller Seritham Party (14 seats).

Prime Minister of Thailand

Thaksin Shinawatra was the first prime minister of Thailand to complete a full term in office, and his rule is generally agreed to have been one of the most distinctive in the country’s modern history. He initiated many eye-catching policies that distinguished him from his predecessors. They affected the economy, public health, education, energy, social order, drug suppression and international relations. He gained two re-election victories.

Thaksin's most effective policies were reducing rural poverty and the introduction of universal healthcare, allowing him to galvanise the vast and largely untapped support base of the rural poor, especially in the populous northeast.

His Cabinet consisted of a broad coalition of academics, former student leaders, and former leaders of the Phalang Dharma party, including Prommin Lertsuridej, Chaturon Chaisang, Prapat Panyachatraksa, Surapong Suebwonglee, Somkid Jatusripitak, Surakiart Sathirathai, and Sudarat Keyuraphan. Traditional regional power brokers also flocked to his government.

But his government was increasingly accused of dictatorship, demagogy, corruption, conflicts of interest, human rights offences, acting undiplomatically, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. A highly controversial leader, he has also been the target of numerous allegations of lèse-majesté, treason, usurping religious and royal authority, selling assets to international investors, and religious desecration.

Economic policies

see also: Policies of the Thaksin government#Economic and health policies and Thaksinomics.

Thaksin's government designed its policies to appeal to the rural majority, initiating programs like village-managed microcredit development funds, low-interest agricultural loans, direct injections of cash into village development funds (the SML scheme), infrastructure development, and the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) rural small and medium enterprise development program.

Thaksinomics, Thaksin's economic policies, helped accelerate Thailand's economic recovery from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and substantially reduce poverty. GDP grew from 4.9 trillion baht at the end of 2001 to 7.1 trillion baht at the end of 2006. Thailand repaid its debts to the International Monetary Fundmarker 2 years ahead of schedule. Between 2000 and 2004, income in the poorest part of the country, the Northeast, rose 40 per cent while nationwide poverty fell from 21.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent. The Stock Exchange of Thailand outperformed other markets in the region. After facing fiscal deficits in 2001 and 2002, Thaksin balanced the national budget, producing comfortable fiscal surpluses for 2003 to 2005. Despite a massive program of infrastructure investments, a balanced budget was projected for 2007. Public sector debt fell from 57 per cent of GDP in January 2001 to 41 per cent in September 2006. Foreign exchange reserves doubled from US$30 billion in 2001 to US$64 billion in 2006.

Critics say Thaksinomics is little more than a Keynesian-style economic stimulus policy re-branded. Economists from the Thailand Development Research Institute argue that other factors, such as a revival in export demand, were the primary cause behind the economy's recovery. Others claimed that the policies got the rural poor "hooked on Thaksin's hand-outs."

Thaksin helped bring part of Thailand's massive underground lottery system into the legal fold by operating a successful numbers game (Thai: หวย) run by the Government Lottery Office. Lottery sales of approx. 70 billion THB (2 billion USD) were used for social projects, including the "One District, One Scholarship" program. The Thaksin government also privatized MCOT, a large television and radio broadcaster.

After the 2006 coup, many of Thaksin's economic policies were stopped, the OTOP program was rebranded, the Government Lottery Office's program was deemed illegal, and the government nationalized several media outlets and energy companies.

Healthcare policies

Thaksin initiated two key healthcare policies: subsidized universal health care and low-cost universal access to anti-retroviral HIV medication (ARVs). Thaksin's 30-baht/visit universal healthcare program won the applause of the general public, but was criticized by many doctors and officials. Prior to the program's introduction, a large portion of the population had no health insurance and limited access to healthcare. The program helped increase access to healthcare from 76% of the population to 96% of the population. The program also increased workloads for healthcare employees, and caused many doctors to switch to higher paying careers. It has been criticized for being underfunded. The program led some hospitals to seek alternative sources of income, leading to a boom in the medical tourism industry, with 1.3 million foreign patients earning Thailand 33 billion THB (approx. 800 million USD) in 2005.

Post-coup Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla called the 30-baht program a "marketing gimmick" and claimed that the government would "very soon" stop charging patients any fees for visits to state hospitals.

During the Thaksin government, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS as well as the overall prevalence rate noticeably declined. Although successful in expanding access to HIV medication, there have been concerns that a free trade agreement with the US could endanger Thailand's ability to produce generic HIV treatments.

Thaksin allowed the estimated 2.3 million migrant workers in Thailand to register and seek health coverage under the Thai national healthcare system. They were also eligible for work permits at the end of the registration period, entitling them to full labor protection. Democrat Party Labour Group Committee Pongsak Plengsaeng criticized the move, claiming that it would lead to unemployment amongst Thais.

The 'war on drugs'

Thaksin initiated several highly controversial policies to counter a perceived boom in the Thai drug market, particularly in methamphetamine. After earlier policies like border blocking (most methamphetamine is produced in Myanmarmarker), education, sports, and promoting peer pressure proved ineffective, Thaksin on 14 January 2003 launched a campaign to rid "every square inch of the country" of drugs in 3 months. It consisted of changing the punishment policy for drug addicts, setting provincial arrest and seizure targets including "blacklists", awarding government officials for achieving targets and threatening punishment for those who failed to make the quota, targeting dealers, and "ruthless" implementation.

In the first three months, Human Rights Watch reports that 2,275 people were killed. The government claimed that only around 50 of the deaths were at the hands of the police. Human rights critics say a large number were extrajudicially executed. The government went out of its way to publicize the campaign, through daily announcements of arrest, seizure, and death statistics.

According to the Narcotics Control Board, the policy was effective in reducing drug consumption, especially in schools, by increasing the market price.

King Bhumibol, in an equivocal 2003 birthday speech, appeared to support the war on drugs, although he did ask the commander of the police to investigate the killings. Police Commander Sant Sarutanond reopened investigations into the deaths, and again claimed that few of the deaths were at the hands of the police.

The war on drugs was widely criticized by the international community. Thaksin requested that the UN Commission on Human Rights send a special envoy to evaluate the situation, but said in an interview, "The United Nations is not my father. I am not worried about any UN visit to Thailand on this issue."

After the 2006 coup, the military junta ordered another investigation into the anti-drug campaign. The committee concluded that as many as 1400 of the 2500 killed had no link to drugs. However, while giving the opinion that orders to kill came from the top, the panel failed to establish sufficient evidence to charge Thaksin or anybody in the Cabinet or police force with the murders.

Education policies

Thaksin implemented major educational reforms, chief among them school decentralization, as mandated by the 1997 Constitution. It was to delegate school management from the over-centralized and bureaucratized Ministry of Education to Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs) but met with massive widespread opposition from Thailand's 700,000 teachers, who would be deprived of their status as civil servants. There were also fears among teachers that TAOs lacked the ability to manage schools. In the face of massive teacher protests and several threats of school closure, Thaksin compromised and gave teachers whose schools were transferred to TAO management two years to transfer to other schools.

Others included learning reform and related curricular decentralization, mostly through greater use of holistic education and less use of rote learning.

To increase access to universities for lower income people, Thaksin initiated the Student Loan Fund (SLF) and Income Contingency Loan (ICL) programs. The ICL granted loans regardless of financial status, and required recipients to start repayments when their salaries reached 16,000 baht a month, with interest equivalent to inflation from the day the loan was granted. The SLF had an eligibility limit on family income but interest was 1 per cent starting a year after graduation. The programs were merged and the income limit modified after Thaksin's government was overthrown.

Thaksin also initiated the controversial "One District, One Dream School" project, aimed at developing the quality of schools to ensure that every district had at least one high-quality school. It was criticized, with claims that the only beneficiaries were Thaksin and companies selling computers and educational equipment. Many schools also fell deeply into debt in implementing the project, receiving inadequate financial support from the central government.

In addition, he altered the state university entrance system, which had relied exclusively on a nationally standardized exams. Thaksin pushed for greater weighting of senior high-school grades in the hope of focusing students on classroom learning rather than private entrance exam tutoring.

He initiated the Income Contingency Loan program to increase access to higher education, whereby needy students could secure a loan to support their studies from vocational to university levels. Thai banks had traditionally not given education loans. He made Thailand one of the first supporters of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with the Thai Ministry of Education committing to purchase 600,000 units. The junta later cancelled the project.

Energy policies

See also:Policies of the Thaksin government#Energy policies and Energy Industry Liberalization and Privatization

In energy policy, the Thaksin government continued the Chuan Leekpai government's privatization agenda, but with important changes. Whereas the Chuan government's post-Asian financial crisis policies sought economic efficiency through industry fragmentation and wholesale power pool competition, Thaksin's policies aimed to create national champions that could reliably support stronger economic growth and become important players in regional energy markets. Thaksin also initiated a policy to encourage renewable energy and energy conservation. Many Thaksin-era energy policies were reversed following the 2006 coup.

South Thailand insurgency

A resurgence in violence began in 2001 in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand with their Muslim, ethnic Malay majority. There is much controversy about the causes of this escalation. Attacks after 2001 concentrated on police, the military, and schools, but civilians are also regular targets. Thaksin was widely criticized for his management of the situation.

Of three key controversial incidents, the first was the Army’s storming of the Krue Se Mosque, where protesters had holed up and were killed. .

The second, in October 2004, was the killing of 84 Muslim demonstrators at Tak Bai when the Army broke up a peaceful protest. Hundreds of detainees were forced at gunpoint to lie shackled and prone in Army trucks, stacked like cordwood. The trucks were delayed from moving to the detainment area for hours. The 84 were asphyxiated, crushed or died of overheating.

In a third incident, Muslim lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit disappeared, allegedly abducted and killed by police for his role in defending alleged insurgents who claimed to have been tortured.

Thaksin announced an escalation of military and police activity in the region. In July 2005, Thaksin enacted an Emergency Decree to manage the three troubled provinces. Several human rights organizations expressed their concerns that the decree might be used to violate civil liberties.

In March 2005, Thaksin established the National Reconciliation Commission, chaired by former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun to oversee efforts to bring peace to the troubled South. In its final report in June 2006, the commission proposed introducing elements of Islamic law and making Pattani-Malay an official language in the region. The Thaksin administration assigned a government committee to study the report, but nothing came of it.

Administrative reform

One of the most visible of Thaksin's administrative reforms was the restructuring of government department and ministries, labeled the "big bang." It was hailed as a "historic breakthrough" and "the first major reorganization of ministries since King Chulalongkorn set up Thailand’s modern system of departmental government in 1897." Plans had been studied for years to loosen perceived rigidities and inertia of the old system but were not implemented until the Thaksin government.

The restructuring was designed to streamline the bureaucracy and focus it on performance and results. New ministries were carved out in Social and Human Security Development, Tourism and Sports, Natural Resources and Environment, Information and Communication Technology, and Culture.

Thaksin transformed the role of provincial governors to that of active policy managers. Historically, central government ministries operated in the provinces through field offices headed by senior officials who reported back to Bangkok, while the Interior Ministry appointed provincial governors whose role was largely ceremonial.

A key component of Thaksin's administrative reform policy, the "CEO-governors" epitomized what was called his "transformation of the operating style of the traditional bureaucracy into a more results-oriented instrument that would be responsive." Piloted in 2001 and introduced in all provinces in October 2003, CEO-governors were put in charge of planning and coordinating provincial development and became accountable for overall provincial affairs. The "CEO governors" were assisted by "provincial CFOs" from the Ministry of Finance who reported directly to each governor. Governors were authorized to raise funds by issuing bonds and were given an intensive training course. After the coup, the junta reverted the role of governors.

The Thaksin era also saw the opening of a number of government one-stop service centers to reduce red tape for anything from investment to utilities and ID-card processing.

Foreign policies

Thaksin initiated negotiations for several free trade agreements with China, Australia, Bahrain, India, and the US. The latter especially was criticized, with claims that high-cost Thai industries could be wiped out.

Thailand joined the US-led invasion of Iraq, sending a 423-strong humanitarian contingent. It withdrew its troops on 10 September 2004. Two Thai soldiers died in Iraq in an insurgent attack.

Thaksin announced that Thailand would forsake foreign aid, and work with donor countries to assist in the development of neighbors in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Thaksin was repeatedly attacked for acting undiplomatically with foreign leaders and the international community. Besides his famous swipe at the UN (see The 'war on drugs' above), there were also allegations of gaffes at international meetings.

Thaksin was ambitious to position Thailand as a regional leader, initiating various development projects in poorer neighbouring countries like Laos. More controversially, he established close, friendly ties with the Burmese dictatorship, including extending the impoverished country a 4 billion baht credit line so it could conclude a satellite telecom deal with his family business.

Thaksin energetically supported his former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai's somewhat improbable campaign to become UN Secretary General.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

After more than 30 years of planning and debate, the Thaksin government completed the construction of the new Suvarnabhumi Airportmarker. The airport was officially opened a week after the government was overthrown. It is one of the world's largest airports.

Some members of Thaksin's government were accused of corruption in the Suvarnabhumi Airport project. Corruption allegations were used by the military junta to justify the 2006 coup. The junta initiated several investigations into the airport. However investigative panels found that damage to the airport was "minute" and "common." The cost of fixing the damage was estimated at less than 1% of the total airline cost. The junta was accused of delaying airport repairs and intensifying the airport's problems in order to pin further blame on the Thaksin government.


'Policy corruption'

Thaksin was accused of "policy corruption," such as infrastructure and liberalization policies that, while legal and a potential benefit to society, also aided companies that were owned by his family members. Supannee Chai-amporn and Sirinthip Arun-rue of the National Institute of Development Administration claimed that policy corruption caused the state to spend nearly 30 per cent more than it otherwise should have spent, costing the state an additional 400 billion baht. Other examples cited were the Board of Investment granting tax breaks worth a total of Bt16.4 billion to Shin Satellite for its iPSTAR project in 2003, and the Transport Ministry's decision the same year to abolish the minimum air fare of Bt3.8 /km when Shin Corp was about to enter into a joint venture with low-cost carrier AirAsia to open a Thai subsidiary.

After the 2006 coup, the military junta-appointed Assets Examination Committee froze Thaksin's assets based on charges of policy corruption.

Thaksin denied the allegations. “They just made up a beautiful term to use against me. There’s no such thing in this government. Our policies only serve the interests of the majority of the people,” he said. From 2002 to 2006, the stock price of Shin Corp increased from 38 to 104 baht (an increase of 173 per cent) while the stock price of Shin Satellite fell. In the same period, the Stock Exchange of Thailand index rose 161 per cent, and the price of other major SET blue chip companies increased vastly more. Industry deregulation caused the market share of AIS to fall from 68 per cent to 53 per cent.


Transparency International reported that Thailand's reputation for transparency among business executives improved during the years of the Thaksin government. In 2001, Thailand's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was 3.2 (ranked 61), whereas in 2005, the CPI was 3.8 (ranked 59).However, a study of Worldwide Governance Indicators by the World Bank gave a lower score on Control of Corruption during 2002-2005 to Thaksin's government compared to 1998-2000. It should be noted that Thaksin resisted efforts by the International Monetary Fund to control Thai government policies, in direct contravention of World Bank advices; accordingly, the World Bank may not be considered an objective observer of the Thaksin regime. After the 2006 military coup, Thaksin was convicted of allowing a conflict of interest, by allowing his wife to purchase a piece of property from the Financial Institutions Development Fund. Other cases are pending.

There were complaints that Thaksin-appointed relatives to senior positions in the civil service and independent commissions, for example by elevating his cousin, General Chaiyasit Shinawatra, to Army commander-in-chief. Chaiyasit was replaced after only one year due to his inability to control the southern Thai insurrection.

Former Thai ambassador to the UN Asda Jayanama, in an anti-Thaksin rally, claimed that Thaksin's two state visits to India were made in order to negotiate a satellite deal for Shin Corporation.

Other charges

Thaksin's government was accused of exerting political influence in its crackdown on unlicensed community radio stations, and Thaksin brought massive defamation suits against critical journalists.

Thaksin was also accused of interference when the Senate appointed Wisut Montriwat (former Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance) to the position of Auditor General, replacing Jaruvan Maintaka.

Thaksin has been engaged in a series of lawsuits brought by American businessman William L. Monson regarding Thaksin's takeover of a cable-television joint venture the two partnered in during the 1980s.

Political crisis of 2005-2006

2005 re-election

Under the slogans "Four Years of Repair Four years of Reconstruction" and "Building Opportunities", Thaksin and the TRT won landslide victories in the February 2005 elections, sweeping 374 out of 500 seats in Parliament. The election had the highest voter turnout in Thai history. But his second term was soon beset by protests, with claims that he presided over a "parliamentary dictatorship."

Accusations by Sondhi Limthongkul

The political crisis was catalyzed by several accusations published by media mogul and popular talk show host Sondhi Limthongkul, a former Thaksin supporter. These included accusations that Thaksin:

Sale of Shin Corporation

On 23 January 2006, the Shinawatra family sold their entire stake in Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings. The Shinawatra and Damapong families netted about 73 billion baht (about US$1.88 billion) tax-free from the sale, using a regulation that made individuals who sell shares on the stock exchange exempt from capital gains tax. The deal made Thaksin the target of accusations of corruption and selling an asset of national importance to a foreign entity.

Anti-Thaksin rallies

Thaksin faced pressure to resign following the Shin Corp. sale.

Protests, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) whose leaders included Chamlong and Sondhi, soon swelled to tens of thousands who occupied the area around government House in Bangkok. They consisted mainly of middle-class Bangkokians and also included prominent social figures, academics and students.

House dissolution and election

Thaksin announced a House dissolution on 24 February 2006. General elections were scheduled for 2 April.

Thaksin was attacked for calling the snap elections. In an editorial, The Nation noted it "fails to take into consideration a major fallacy of the concept [of democracy], particularly in a less-developed democracy like ours, in which the impoverished, poorly informed masses are easily manipulated by people of his ilk. And Thaksin's manipulation has been well documented."

Election results and by-elections

Thaksin's TRT Party won the widely boycotted elections, gaining 462 seats in Parliament, with the ratio of voters to no-voters 16:10, not counting non-voters.

However, by-elections were needed for 40 TRT candidates who failed to win the minimum 20% required by the 1997 Constitution in an uncontested seat. The Democrat Party refused to contest them and, along with the PAD, petitioned the Central Administrative Court to cancel them. Chamlong Srimuang declared that the PAD would ignore the elections and "go on rallying until Thaksin resigns and Thailand gets a royally-appointed prime minister".

They were held on 25 April and resulted in the TRT winning 25 of the constituencies and losing 2. Yet another round of by-elections on 29 April was scheduled for 13 constituencies. The Thai Rak Thai Party was later accused and found guilty of paying smaller parties to contest the election to fulfill the 20% rule, while the Democrat Party was accused of paying smaller parties not to. The by-elections were suspended by the Constitution Court while it deliberated whether to annul the main elections. In press interviews in exile, Thaksin was to insist on his technical majority.

Invalidation of the elections

On 8 May 2006, the Constitutional Court ruled 8-6 to invalidate the April elections based on the awkward positioning of voting booths. The ruling was called a landmark case in "judicial activism." The Democrat Party, which had boycotted the April elections, said they were now ready to contest an October election.

A new election was ordered and later set for 15 October. The Court found the Election Commissioners guilty of malfeasance and jailed them. But the 15 October election was cancelled when the military seized power on 19 September.

Break from politics

Thaksin announced on 4 April 2006 that he would not accept the post of Prime Minister after Parliament reconvened, but would continue as Caretaker Prime Minister until then.

He then delegated his functions to Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, moved out of Government House, and went on vacation.

September 2006 coup

In the evening of 19 September 2006, while Thaksin was visiting New York Citymarker, USA to attend a United Nations summit and speak at the Council on Foreign Relations, the army took control of Bangkokmarker. At Government House, some 50 soldiers ordered approximately 220 policemen in the complex to lay down their weapons. Troops also surrounded the Thaicom satellite receiving station and state-run television station Channel 11. By the morning of 20 September, tanks and military vehicles armed with machine guns were stationed at Government House, the Royal Plaza and government units along Rajdamnoen Avenue.

Troops participating in the coup were from the 1st and 3rd Army Regions, the Internal Security Operations Command, the Special Warfare Centre and Army units in Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachin Buri provinces and sections of the Navy. According to coup leader Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the coup leaders had arrested Deputy Prime Minister Chitchai Wannasathit and Defense Minister Thammarak Isaragura na Ayuthaya.

The military, originally calling itself the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarch (CDRM), issued a statement citing the government's alleged lèse majesté, corruption, interference with state agencies, and creation of social divisions as reasons for the coup. It declared the king of Thailand the head of state, and said elections would be held soon to return democracy to the country. Thaksin later arrived in Britainmarker, where he had family.

Thai Rak Thai party

Many Thai Rak Thai party members were reported to have resigned from the party in the aftermath of the coup for fear that the party would be dissolved by the junta and its members banned from politics. These included Somsak Thepsuthin and 100 members of the Wang Nam Yom faction. It was not clear whether Suriya Jungrungreangkit, another influential member of the faction, would also resign. Sonthaya Kunplome was reported to have led 20 members of the Chonburi faction in resigning from the party.

On 2 October 2006 Thaksin and his former deputy Somkid Jatusipitak resigned from the TRT. Chaturon Chaisang took over as party head.

The TRT was finally dissolved on 30 May 2007 by the Constitutional Tribunal, which banned over 100 of its executives, including Thaksin, from politics for 5 years, based on charges that two party executives (Defense Minister Thammarak and Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn) bribed a smaller party to stand in the April 2006 election. The Democrat party was cleared on a similar charge.

2006 Bangkok New Year's Eve bombings

On 31 December 2006 and 1 January 2007, several bombs exploded in Bangkok. Thaksin later went on CNN to deny any involvement in the bombings.

Legal charges

Thaksin's diplomatic passport was revoked on 31 December 2006 after the junta accused him of engaging in political activities while in exile. Thai embassies were ordered not to facilitate his travels.

In January 2007, the Financial Institutions Development Fund complied with an Assets Examination Committee request to file a charge against Thaksin and his wife over their purchase of four 772 million baht plots of land from the FIDF in 2003. The charge was based on alleged violation of Article 100 of the National Counter Corruption Act, which prohibits government officials and their spouses from entering into or having interests in contracts made with state agencies under their authority.

The Assets Examination Committee also accused Thaksin of issuing an unlawful cabinet resolution approving the spending of state funds to buy rubber saplings.

In March 2007, the Office of the Attorney-General charged Thaksin's wife and brother-in-law with conspiring to evade taxes of 546 million baht (US$15.6 million) in a 1997 transfer of Shin Corp shares.

The Assets Examination Committee found Thaksin guilty of malfeasance for obstructing competition by imposing an excise tax on telecom operators. Thaksin's Cabinet had approved the relevant executive decree in 2003.

However, as his self-imposed exile, Thaksin has not yet been found guilty by any Thai court of any of the above charges or findings.

Purchase of Manchester City Football Club

Already as prime minister, Thaksin had unsuccessfully sought to buy the English Premier League football clubs Fulham and later Liverpool, in what critics said was a publicity stunt in response to his political problems.

On 21 June 2007, now out of office, he bought Premier League club Manchester City for £81.6 million. He became briefly popular with fans, who called him Frank after his surname's similarity with Sinatra, when he appointed Sven-Göran Eriksson manager of the club and brought in other prominent figures. However, after internal discord he sold the club to investors from Abu Dhabi in September 2008.

Convictions and exile

In May 2007, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Thaksin was free to return to Thailand, and he would personally guarantee Thaksin's safety, conflicting with statements from Sonthi. In January 2008 Thaksin's wife Potjaman was arrested on arrival in Bangkokmarker but released on bail after appearing at the Supreme Court, with orders not to leave the country. She was set to be tried for alleged violation of stock-trading and land sale laws.

On 28 February 2008, Thaksin arrived in Bangkok after 17 months in exile. He was arrested on arrival but soon released on bail. Thaksin again stated he would not re-enter politics and wished to focus on his football interests. In March Thaksin pleaded not guilty before the Supreme Court in one of his 2 criminal corruption cases. He was ordered to report back on 11 April after the court granted a month long trip to England.

In June the Supreme Court denied Thaksin's request to travel to China and Britain, since his corruption case was set for trial, saying there were not enough reasons for him to travel. He was ordered to surrender his passport after arraignment. In July the Court assumed jurisdiction over the fourth corruption charge against Thaksin concerning the soft loans to Burmamarker. The court also agreed to hear allegations that Thaksin, his former cabinet, and three members of the current government, broke anti-gambling laws by setting up the new state lottery in 2003.

Potjaman was found guilty on 31 July and sentenced to three years imprisonment, but released on bail. The Bangkok Criminal Court also convicted her adopted brother Bhanapot Damapong and her secretary, who allegedly held assets for Thaksin by proxy, of tax evasion.

Request for asylum in Britain

On 10 August 2008, Thaksin and Potjaman flew to London from Beijing, where they had been attending the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in violation of bail terms. Thaksin said it was his wish to return to Thailand but claimed it was not currently safe for him and his family. He announced his intention to seek political asylum in Britainmarker, claiming his political enemies were interfering with the judiciary.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions issued a 2nd arrest warrant on 16 September 2008 against Thaksin over another of the 4 pending corruption cases and ordered suspension of the trial. Several more arrest warrants were issued over subsequent no-shows at various corruption trials.

Ratchadaphisek Land Verdict

See also Potjaman Shinawatra#Ratchadaphisek land purchase controversy

On 21 October 2008, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions ruled that Thaksin, while prime minister, abused his power to help his wife buy public land at auction, and sentenced him to two years in jail; however, the charge against Potjaman had lapsed, and the land and properties she gained under the deal could not be seized since she herself had held no political office. The Court also revoked her arrest warrant for this case.

Soon after, Thaksin told Reuters, "I have been informed of the result. I had long anticipated that it would turn out this way," and added that the case was politically motivated.

Chief prosecutor Seksan Bangsombun called on Britain to extradite him. Thaksin now denied he was seeking political asylum in Britain.

Self-imposed exile

On 10 November 2008, a Philippine spokesman said his government would "politely" turn down any request for political refuge from Thaksin due to Manila’s “friendly” relations with Bangkokmarker amid Thai newspaper reports that Thaksin could land in Manilamarker while his brother-in-law, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, was set to arrive for a scheduled state visit on 10 November.

The British Government Home Office, meanwhile, revoked Potjaman and Thaksin's visa due to their convictions, while the Bangkok British Embassy e-mailed airlines directing them to disallow either of them to board flights to Britain.

Thaksin had reportedly considered sanctuaries such as China, the Bahamasmarker, Nicaragua, and several other countries in South America and Africa. Reports said the Shinawatras were granted Bahamas honorary citizenship and Nicaragua honorary citizenship and were building a £5.5 million home in China. The visa revocation rendered moot the UK extradition issue, but the Office of the Attorney General said prosecutors were working on extradition documents and added even if Thaksin decided to live in a country with which Thailand has no extradition treaty, "authorities could ask for him to be handed over on a reciprocal basis." As of late May 2009, he reportedly remained in Dubai. A spokesman claimed Thaksin was traveling on six passports, none of them Thai. In December 2008 Thaksin used high-ranking connections to obtain a one-year visa for Germany. The visa was withdrawn on 28 May 2009 when the German government became aware of the arrangement. Thaksin then obtained status as a diplomat of Nicaraguamarker.

Songkran Unrest

In mid-April 2009, violent protests by a coalition of mostly Thaksin-supporters calling themselves the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) led to the cancellation of the ASEAN summit in Pattayamarker and declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok. While Thaksin had been giving enthusiastic encouragement at UDD rallies via satellite and phone-in link, at one point calling for a "people's revolution," following the suppression of the protests he claimed to have merely been offering "moral support."

Money laundering allegations

In April 2009, Privy Councilor General Pichitr Kullavanijaya reported he had been informed by former US ambassador to Thailand Ralph L. Boyce that Thaksin had laundered 100 billion baht (US$2.8 billion) through Cayman Island bank accounts and was using the funds to organize the anti-government protests. However, both Thaksin and Boyce denied the charges.

Economic advisor to Cambodia

On 4 November 2009, it was announced that Thaksin Shinawatra had been appointed a special advisor to the Cambodianmarker government and to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Cambodian state television said Cambodia would refuse to extradite Thaksin because it considered him a victim of political persecution, despite his criminal conviction corruption charges.

On 5 November 2009, Thailand recalled its ambassador from Cambodia in protest.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated this was the "the first diplomatic retaliation measure". He said Cambodia was interfering in Thailand's internal affairs and as a result all bi-lateral co-operation agreements would be reviewed. In the months prior to the Cambodian decision, troops of both nations had clashed over land near Preah Vihear Templemarker which is claimed by both countries, leading to a deterioration in relations. At 8.30 pm local time on 5 November Cambodia announced it was withdrawing its ambassador from Thailand as a retaliatory measure. Sok An, a member of the Council of Ministers and Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, said Thaksin's appointment is a decision internal to Cambodia and "conforms to international practice". The mutual withdrawal of ambassadors is the most severe diplomatic action to have occurred between the two countries.

Royal decorations

Thaksin has received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:

Foreign decorations

  • 2002 - The Most Blessed Order Of Setia Negara Brunei, 1st Class

See also


  1. The World Bank, Thailand Economic Monitor, November 2005
  2. NaRanong, Viroj, Na Ranong, Anchana, Universal Health Care Coverage: Impacts of the 30-Baht Health Care Scheme on the Rural Poor in Thailand, TDRI Quarterly Review, September 2006
  3. Pongsudhirak Thitinan, "Victory places Thaksin at crossroads", Bangkok Post, 9 February 2005
  4. Aurel Croissant and Daniel J. Pojar, Jr., Quo Vadis Thailand? Thai Politics after the 2005 Parliamentary Election, Strategic Insights, Volume IV, Issue 6 (June 2005)
  5. BBC News, A fit and proper Premiership?
  6. The Star, Dreaded day dawns – despite lies and dark forces, 2 April 2006
  7. The Nation, Vandal's dad distraught, 23 March 2006
  8. BBC News, Thai party's disbandment solves little, 1 June 2007
  9. The Nation, Thaksin's assets frozen, 12 June 2007
  10. The Nation, Slighted Sawat resigns from AEC, 2 October 2006
  11. China Daily, Reports: Thailand's former PM Thaksin divorces, 15 November 2008
  12. CNN, Lawyer: Thaksin 'poised' to return, 25 February 2008
  13. New York Times, Thai Court Convicts Ex-Premier for Conflict in Land Deal, 21 October 2008
  14. Straits Times, Down to his last US$500m, 26 December 2008
  15. The Nation, Thai FM revoked Thaksin's diplomatic passport
  16. MCOT, Bt10 million BMA property damage from protest; religious rites to be held, 16 April 2009
  17. BBC, Thaksin on protests in Thailand, 13 April 2009
  18. BBC News, Billionaire hopes to score Liverpool deal BBC News, 18 May 2004
  19. Bangkok Post, Thaksin's classmates closed ranks behind him on his 58th birthday, 27 July 1999
  20. Pasuk Phongpaichit & Chris Baker, "The Only Good Populist is a Rich Populist: Thaksin Shinawatra and Thailand's Democracy, October 2002
  21. Transcript of an interview between Thaksin Shinawatra and Cheeptham Khamwisit (Thai: ชีพธรรม คำวิเศษณ์) on the program on FM 102 radio station
  22. Personal background from personal website
  23. Google Cache of a JobTopGun profile of AIS's corporate milestones
  24. Billionaire hopes to score Liverpool deal 18 May 2004
  25. UBC 2004 Annual Report, page 8
  26. List of subsidiaries from the AIS website
  27. AIS corporate website, click on "About AIS", "Company profile", and then "1990"
  28. DTAC, Milestones 2002-1990
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  30. Taming The Media: Allegations of political interference cast a cloud over Thaksin's incoming administration Asia Week Vol.27, No.6 16 February 2001
  31. The Television Business, Democracy and The Army December 1998
  32. Asia Times, Grumbles, revelations of a Thai coup maker, 22 December 2006
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  36. MSU alumni, friends, honored for outstanding achievements: Purachai Piumsombun of Bangkok, Thailand 14 October 2004
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  42. World Bank, Thailand Economic Monitor, October 2003
  43. The Nation, Black Tuesday: Did the BOT overreact?, 25 December 2006
  44. TDRI ECONOMISTS: Thaksinomics 'not a driver of growth' - Wichit Chaitrong, The Nation, 30 March 2006
  45. The Nation, Forget the apologies, let the PM rebuild democracy, 5 October 2006
  46. The Nation, Activists call for MCOT delisting, 24 November 2006
  47. 85 Bogus Doctors Arrested In Thailand Last Year 6 June 2006
  48. First International Trade Exhibition and Conference on Medical Tourism, Spa and Wellness Industries, in Bangkok, 20-23 March 2008 2007
  49. The Nation, Bt30 health fee may be scrapped, 14 October 2006
  50. Follow-up to the declaration of commitment on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) December 2004
  51. Anucha Yuwadee, Bangkok Post, 15 January 2003
  52. "A Wave of Drug Killings Is Linked to Thai Police" By Seth Mydans, 8 April 2003 New York Times [2]
  53. Amnesty International report: Thailand: Grave developments - Killings and other abuses.
  54. Thailand: Public Senses War On Drugs Futile 20 March 2005
  55. Royal Jubilee Network, 2003 Birthday Speech of King Bhumibol Adulyadej
  56. "Kanit to chair extrajudicial killings probe" Bangkok Post, 3 August 2007
  57. "Thailand's drug wars. Back on the offensive" 24 January 2008 The Economist
  58. Thaksin Government 2001 Policy Statement, Section 11.1
  59. Crisis in the ‘Land of the Smile’ International Viewpoint, Online magazine: IV376 - March 2006
  60. Thai News Agency, Rote learning to be eliminated from schools, says PM, 21 January 2006
  61. The Nation, New student loan scheme to have higher family-income limit, 13 November 2006
  62. The Nation, "CROSSING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: Sipa hopes for equal access for all children nationwide", 15 August 2005
  63. Far Eastern Economic Review, "Power Politics Trump Reform", 27 September 2001
  64. Bangkok Post, "Raising sector efficiency `crucial': Utility's B140bn debt strains public purse"
  65. The New York Times, U.N. Criticizes Emergency Powers, Warren Hoge, 22 July 2005
  66. Somchai Phatharathananunth "Civil Society and Democratization" p.222
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  68. FTA Watch Group website
  69. 'Thaksin to face charges over Burma telecom deal . ICT News, 2 August 2007
  70. International Herald Tribune, Thailand's airport imbroglio grows, 2 February 2007
  71. The Nation, Thaksin-era corruption'cost state Bt400 bn', 2 October 2006
  72. Asia Sentinel, Thailand's Thaksin Freeze Out, 14 June 2007
  73. Thai Public Relations Department, "Thailand’s Image on Transparency", 26 October 2004
  74. Transparency International TI 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index
  75. Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2001
  76. Worldwide Governance Indicators
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  78. The Nation, Surayud suspects "power losers", 1 January 2007
  79. Reuters, NEWSMAKER-City takeover keeps Thaksin in the political limelight, 6 July 2007
  80. PLUS Markets Group Manchester City plc - Offer unconditional in all respects, 7 July 2007
  81. Official Manchester City website, Sven-Goran Eriksson appointed Manchester City Manager 6 July 2007
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  87., Thai court blocks Thaksin trip to China, Britain
  88.,'And don't leave town'
  89., Thailand Court Agrees to Hear Case Against Thaksin
  90., Burmese loan case is fourth supreme court charge against Thaksin
  91., Thaksin's wife found guilty of tax evasion
  92., Ex-Thai PM's wife guilty of tax fraud
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  100., Thai Court Postpones Verdict Against Ousted Premier Thaksin, Wife On Land Case
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  108., RP closes door on Thaksin
  109., Philippine asylum for Thaksin unlikely: foreign dept official
  110., Philippine foreign dept official says asylum for Thaksin unlikely
  111. UK visa revoked, Thaksin looks for new home
  112., Thailand to push Thaksin extradition wherever he goes
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  114. Ein Milliardär auf dem Amt, ´´Sueddeutsche Zeitung´´, 4 June 2009
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  116. Asia Times, Smoke, mirrors and lies, 17 April 2009

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