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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More