A pardon for Thailand’s prodigal son?

Protests erupt over news that controversial former PM Thaksin Shinawatra might be returning home

A pardon for a prodigal son?

Kamran Jebreili/AP

To Thais, Thaksin Shinawatra is a lot of things: a businessman, a populist politician, and a controversial fugitive. But even from his refuge nearly 5,000 km away—the 62-year-old is currently living in Dubai to evade a two-year conflict-of-interest jail sentence—Thailand’s former prime minister has never strayed far from the country’s political hubbub. Now his spectre has again incensed Thailand’s opposition parties, following reports in the English-language Bangkok Post that he would be granted a pardon.

Royal pardons are granted annually in Thailand on Dec. 5, to celebrate King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday. If the king approves the decree, the Bangkok Post reported, Thaksin would be allowed to return home and forego the jail sentence handed to him in 2008. But the ex-prime minister remains a divisive figure. Born in the northern Chiang Mai province, Thaksin was educated in the U.S. before returning to Thailand in the 1980s to build the telecommunications conglomerate Shin Corp. He entered politics in 1994, leading the populist Thai Rak Thai party to a 2001 record majority win. In a country accustomed to coups and dictatorships, he was the first prime minister to head an elected government through a full term of office, and gained popularity amongst Thailand’s rural poor for his investments in infrastructure and universal health care.

But his tenure was marred by civil unrest and allegations of corruption, tax evasion and conflict of interest, and Thaksin was overthrown by the military in a 2006 coup. Although his Thai Rak Thai party was disbanded in 2009, he still wields authority in the governing Pheu Thai Party: his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected Thailand’s prime minister in July.

Reports of a possible pardon have already sparked street action by both his opponents and supporters. But back in Dubai—he splits his time between there and London—Thaksin isn’t holding his breath. In an open letter, he wrote: “I support all measures that will lead to national reconciliation and do not want to see any attempt that will sour the atmosphere. I will be patient for the sake of the people.”






A pardon for Thailand’s prodigal son?

  1. Really? I understand you point of view. You must be standing right next to him. But real people, who are actually in Thailand will tend to disagree. Those who are easily bribed are also his supporters. Where are his schools he promised to build? I am near the people of isarn, I see the strategy that is being used. Give money to the parents, take the future from the children. The poor can’t see the future like us web junkies….and The royal pardon was not approved yet you talk like it was. ! A prodigal son? And who are you implying the father is? Please write a real article about how taksin need to stay shoe throwing distance away from educated Thais who are actually trying to change the country for the benefit of all Thais.

  2. he is a democratic dictatorship, corruptionist … he killed a lot of opposites. use M79 grenades killed lot of people between 2009-2010
    he ordered to burned many schools in northern east after coup. then has builded Red Shirt to be rough demonstrators against his enemy. 

  3. This article has no substance and hardly touches the surface of what is REALLY going on in Thailand. Typing an article on a key is easy, but perhaps you need to do more research work before putting out a piece that purportedly representing real events. Thailand is doomed by Thaksin’s/his puppet government’s populist policies and massive scale corruption. Its people are suffering as the economy is heading for breakdown.

    • ‘… massive scale corruption’ you say. That implies that many Thais, besides Thaksin, have to shoulder some responsibility, don’t you think?

      Nevertheless, his “I will be patient for the sake of the people.” statement, should explain things too.

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