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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid