News / Asia

Thaksin's Homecoming Hopes Dashed as Thai Crisis Reignites

Cut-out image of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra near body of a man killed near stadium where pro-government Red Shirts gathered, Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013.
Cut-out image of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra near body of a man killed near stadium where pro-government Red Shirts gathered, Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013.
Reuters
Thailand's political future is cloudier than ever, but one thing is for certain — self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra won't be coming home soon.
 
The chances of another round of political conflict seemed slim a few months ago as the government of Thaksin's sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, entered its third year in office after a fairly smooth ride, much to do with outwardly cordial ties with her brother's enemies, among them generals, royal advisers and opposition politicians.
 
Having fled into exile to avoid a jail sentence for graft in 2008, Thaksin had hoped the climate was ripe for him to try to return. But now that seems less likely than ever.
 
Protesters have marched for weeks in Bangkok streets, clashing with riot police and vowing to overthrow the “Thaksin regime” and replace it with “good people,” effectively suspending Thailand's democratic system. Yingluck's honeymoon period is over and her government is clinging to power.
 
Her mistake appears to have been her Puea Thai party's attempts to ram through the legislature a political amnesty bill that outraged opponents, who called it a blatant move whitewash the divisive Thaksin of his crimes.
 
The Senate rejected the bill and Yingluck shelved it, but the damage was already done. Thaksin's opponents among the royalist, military-backed establishment and the parliamentary opposition had the pretext they needed to launch the latest salvo.
 
FILE - Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister, Sept. 17, 2011.FILE - Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister, Sept. 17, 2011.
x
FILE - Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister, Sept. 17, 2011.
FILE - Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister, Sept. 17, 2011.
“Thaksin is the ghost of Thailand's politics and people just can't get over him,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun of Kyoto University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
 
“Through the amnesty, he tested the waters, but these were deep, deep waters and that has provided the protesters with an opportunity to remove a threat to the old establishment.”
 
Though a ceasefire of sorts has been declared between demonstrators and the government to mark the 86th birthday of much revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday, the battle lines have again been drawn in a long-running conflict, pitting a decades-old oligarchy against a new one that has emerged under Thaksin's rule.
 
Leader at large
 
Few think that Yingluck's party that won a 2011 election in a landslide by campaigning on Thaksin's name and populist policies is being run independently of him. The cabinet is stacked with his closest allies with whom he communicates via Skype and many Puea Thai lawmakers have met him overseas at his homes in Hong Kong and Dubai.
 
The amnesty bid is widely seen as a poor call by Thaksin, who might have been lulled into a false sense of security by Yingluck's peaceful run in office, her party's commanding parliamentary majority and the military's attempts to distance itself from the crisis after a series of bungled forays into politics since overthrowing Thaksin in a 2006 coup.
 
Under Yingluck, Thailand rebounded from the worst flood crisis in 50 years with economic growth of 6.5 percent in 2012.
 
A policy of tax rebates for first-time buyers of homes and cars won some middle-class support while a rice subsidy shored up already strong rural backing garnered from almost free healthcare, village grants and cheap loans under Thaksin.
 
Combined with a hefty war chest amassed from a telecoms business and ventures into gold and diamond mines and even a Premier League soccer club, billionaire Thaksin has the cash to spend on modern marketing campaigns that have won him or his proxies every election since 2001. It's likely they would win another if a snap poll was called, something Yingluck has refused to do.
 
That leaves the situation in a stalemate if Thailand wants to remain a democracy.
 
If Yingluck's government was forced out, it would only be a matter of time, given the electoral support, before Thaksin wrested back control, whether he's actually in Thailand or not.
 
Until then, Thaksin may have left his sister with a lot to contend with.
 
“This amnesty fiasco has blown up in his face, the anti-Thaksin crusade has been reignited and there's every indication this will not stop here,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
 
“These protests have been condoned and supported by large segments of the Bangkok-based establishment. It looks very clear the protesters have strategic backing and if the military intervenes, it will certainly not be on the side of the government.”

  • Anti-government protesters throw rocks after riot police fired tear gas at them near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A military medical unit team assists an injured protester after riot police threw a tear gas canister during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters use fans to blow away tear gas as riot police use a water cannon during clashes in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • A Buddhist monk helps an anti-government protester clean his eyes with salt water solution after riot police fired tear gas in Bangkok, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister towards police from behind a barricade during clashes near the Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • A crowd listens to an anti-government speech at and above a major Bangkok intersection, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Police stand behind razor wire at their headquarters in Bangkok, Dec. 1, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • An anti-government protester gets ready to throw back a tear gas canister fired by riot police in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 1, 2013.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid