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corrupt person

Thaksin Shinawatra

(ทักษิณ ชินวัตร, IPA: ; Chinese: , Qiū Dáxīn, nicknamed by the media as แม้ว Maew), born July 26, 1949 in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand, Thai businessman and politician, is the former Prime Minister of Thailand, and the former leader of the dissolved populist Thai Rak Thai Party. He was in exile for 17 months until February 28, 2008, when he returned to Bangkok. During his exile, Shinawatra became a resident of London and owner of the English football club Manchester City. Thaksin started his career in the Thai police, and later became a successful entrepreneur, establishing Shin Corporation and Advanced Info Service, the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand. He became one of the richest people in Thailand prior to entering politics. Thaksin entered politics by joining the Phalang Dharma Party in 1994 and later founded the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998. After a landslide election victory in 2001, he became Prime Minister of Thailand. At the time, the 2001 election was regarded by some observers as the most open, corruption-free election in Thai history.

Thaksin Shinawatra's re-election in 2005 had the highest voter turnout in Thai history and was noted for the marked reduction in vote-buying compared to previous elections. His main support base was the rural poor in the north, northeast, east and central part of Thailand. Thaksin's policies were partly effective at alleviating rural poverty and for claiming to provide universal health care under the '30 baht scheme'.

Under Thaksin's government, Thailand's standing on major indication of corruption improved in some areas, but in human rights fell dramatically. The Shinawatra government faced frequent allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting non-diplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. Thaksin was accused of lèse-majesté, selling domestic assets to international investors and religious desecration.

Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, who also expressed concern at Thaksin's human rights record. Human Rights Watch described Thaksin as "a human rights abuser of the worst kind", alleging that he participated in media suppression and presided over a violent campaign against drugs. After the coup, the military investigated the campaign but found that Thaksin had not been directly involved with any of these killings. The series of protests in 2005 and 2006 led by Sondhi Limthongkul and his People's Alliance for Democracy led to a decline in his popularity among Bangkok residents. He was also subject to several purported assassination attempts during that period.

On 19 September 2006, a military junta known as the Council for National Security (CNS) overthrew Thaksin's government in a bloodless coup while he was attending a UN meeting in New York. His diplomatic passport was revoked after the CNS accused him of engaging in political activities. Many pro-Thaksin websites and radio stations were also blocked or shut down. A junta-appointed panel dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party and banned Thaksin and the TRT's executive team of 111 politicians from engaging in politics for 5 years. The junta also appointed an Assets Examination Committee that froze Thaksin's bank accounts, claiming that he had become unusually wealthy during his term in government and demanded that he return to Thailand to face charges of corruption. The deposed Thai Prime Minister returned to Thailand from 17 months of exile abroad on February 28 2008, after his proxy-party PPP had won the open elections, to fight corruption charges..

On 10 August 2008, Thaksin and his wife Pojaman were scheduled to return to Thailand to face court decisions regarding income tax evasion, corruption and other unlawful conduct. Pojaman had been sentenced the week before by the Criminal Court of First Instance to three years in prison for income tax evasion. Failing to return as scheduled, the Shinawatra family is, as of 11 August 2008, residing temporarily in London. They and Thai authorities are working to establish Thaksin's status and whether he can be extradited to Thailand.

Thaksin is married to Potjaman Shinawatra, and has one son, Panthongtae and two daughters, Pintongtha and Peathongtarn.

Family background

Thaksin's great-grandfather Seng Sae Khu (surname ))was a Hakka Chinese immigrant from Meizhou, Guangdong who arrived in Siam in the 1860s and settled in Chiang Mai in 1908. His eldest son, Chiang Sae Khu, was born in Chanthaburi in 1890 and married a Thai woman, called Saeng Somna. Chiang's eldest son, Sak, adopted the Thai surname Shinawatra ("does good routinely") in 1938 because of the country's anti-Chinese movement and the rest of the family also adopted it.

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 and deputy leader of the now-defunct Liberal party. Lert Shinawatra quit politics in 1976.

Thaksin's great-grandfather Seng Sae Khu made his fortune through tax farming. The Khu/Shinawatra later founded Shinawatra Silks and then by moving into finance, construction and property development. Lert Shinawatra opened a coffee shop, grew oranges and flowers in Chiang Mai's San Kamphaeng district, and opened two movie theatres, a gas station, and a car and motorcycle dealership. By the time Thaksin was born, the Shinawatra family was one of the richest and most influential families in Chiang Mai.

Early life

Thaksin was born in San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai. Thaksin grew up in the village of Sankamphaeng until he was 15, after which he 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. He then attended the Thai Police Cadet Academy and upon graduation, he joined the Royal Thai Police Department in 1973. He later went on to obtain a master's degree in criminal justice from Eastern Kentucky University in the United States, in 1975. In 1978 he received a doctorate in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas with a dissertation on "An Analysis of the Relationship Between the Criminal Justice Educational Process and the Attitude of the Student Toward the Rule of Law. Returning to Thailand, he reached the position of Deputy Superintendent of the Policy and Planning Sub-division, General Staff Division, Metropolitan Police Bureau. He married Potjaman Damapong, the daughter of a police general, in 1980.

Business career

Early successes and failures

Thaksin and his wife ventured into several businesses while Thaksin was still in the police force. These included opening a silk shop, opening a movie theater, and developing an apartment building. All of these ventures 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 and was a modest success. However, later ventures in security systems (SOS) and public bus radio services (Bus Sound) were failures. In April 1986, he founded Advanced Info Service (AIS), which started off as a computer rental business.

In 1987, after resigning from the police force, he marketed a Thai romance drama called "Baan Sai Thong", which became a popular success in theaters. In 1988 he joined with Pacific Telesis to operate and market the PacLink pager service, which was a modest success, although Thaksin later sold out his stake in PacLink to establish his own paging company. In 1989 Thaksin launched IBC, a cable television company, which lost money and was later merged with the CP Group's UTV. In 1989, Thaksin established a data networking service, Shinawatra DataCom, which was a failure. It is today known as Advanced Data Network, and is owned by AIS and the TOT. Thaksin quit the police force in 1987, having ascended to the rank of a Lieutenant-Colonel.

Advance Info Service and subsequent ventures

In October 1990, Advanced Info Service launched analog 900 MHz mobile phone services after receiving a 20 year concession from the Telephone Organization of Thailand in March and later being 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 one month later to 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 The Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1990.

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

In 1999, the Shinawatra family spent approximately 1 billion baht establishing Shinawatra University in Pathum Thani's Sam Khok district. The private university offered international programs in engineering, architecture, and business management. After the 2006 military coup, half of the junior students dropped out, fearing repercussions in the job market. As of 2007, the University had an endowment of 300 million baht.

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 as Foreign Minister in the first Chuan government

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, his old sponsor Chamlong Srimuang expressed multiple regrets 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 in the Banharn government

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, Thaksin 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. Chamlong lost the election - he and incumbent Governor former PDP-member Krisda Arunwongse na Ayudhya were defeated by Bhichit Rattakul, an independent.

Chamlong's failure to buttress the PDP's failing power base in Bangkok amplified internal divisions in the PDP, particularly between Chamlong's "temple" faction and Thaksin's faction. 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. Soon afterwards, Banharn dissolved Parliament in September 1996.

Fall of the PDP

Thaksin announced that he would not run in the subsequent November 1996 elections, but would remain as leader of the PDP. Some speculated that Thaksin wanted to resign from the party leadership. The PDP suffered a fatal defeat in the elections, winning only 1 seat in Parliament. The PDP soon imploded, with most members resigning.

Although there was much controversy about the root causes of the fall of the PDP, most agree that it was due to internal divisions in the party. Particularly divisive were conflicts between the Chamlong "temple" faction and subsequent generations of outsiders, including Thaksin.

Deputy Prime Minister in the Chavalit government

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

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

Formation of 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 dissolved parliament in November 2000, TRT won a sweeping victory in the January 2001 elections, the first election held under the Constitution of 1997. At the time, some academics called the 2001 election 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

As Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra initiated many distinctive policies affecting the economy, public health, education, energy, drugs and international relations. He gained two landslide re-election victories. Thaksin's policies have been particularly effective at reducing rural poverty and at providing affordable health coverage to the people. Because of this, his main support base has been the rural poor.

His Cabinet was packed with 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 leaders of regional coalitions also became minor members of his Cabinet.

His government has been frequently challenged with allegations of dictatorship, demagogy, corruption, conflicts of interest, human rights offences, acting undiplomatically, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. A 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, religious desecration, and siding with the forces of darkness.

Economic policies

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

Thaksin's government had 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 to accelerate Thailand's economic recovery from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and substantially reducing poverty. The GDP grew from THB 4.9 trillion at the end of 2001 to THB 7.1 trillion at the end of 2006. Thailand repaid its debts to the International Monetary Fund 2 years ahead of schedule. Between 2000 and 2004, income in the poorest part of the country, the Northeast, rose 40 per cent while nation-wide 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% of GDP in January 2001 to 41% in September 2006. Foreign exchange reserves doubled from US$30 billion in 2001 to US$64 billion in 2006.

Critics claim that Thaksinomics is little more than a Keynesian-style economic stimulus policy re-branded as something new and revolutionary. 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) are used for social projects, including the "One District, One Scholarship" program which provided one student from a low-income family in each district with a scholarship to study overseas. Soon after Thaksin was deposed, the junta banned the lottery, claiming it was a social vice. This lured the poor away from work into gambling addiction. In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cabinet did not have the right to introduce the lottery without due political process. The scholarship program was also stopped. The military junta also claimed that Thaksin's government "mischievously spent the proceeds in any way it saw fit".

The Thaksin government reduced the state's control of the media by privatizing 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.

Anti-drug policies

Thaksin initiated several highly controversial policies to counter a boom in the Thai drug market, particularly in methamphetamine. After earlier anti-drug policies like border blocking (most methamphetamine is produced in Myanmar), public education, sports, and promoting peer pressure against drug use proved ineffective, Thaksin launched a multi-pronged suppression campaign that aimed to eradicate methamphetamine use in 3 months. The policy consisted of changing the punishment policy for drug addicts, setting provincial arrest and seizure targets, awarding government officials for achieving targets, targeting dealers, and "ruthless" implementation.

In the first three months, the 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.

King Bhumibol, in his 2003 birthday speech, supported Thaksin's anti-drugs approach, although he did request the commander of the police to categorize the deaths between those killed by police and those killed by fellow drug dealers. Police Commander Sant Sarutanond reopened investigations into the deaths, and again found that few of the deaths were at the hands of the police. Thaksins anti-drug approach was widely criticized by 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. Former Attorney General Kanit Na Nakhon chaired the special investigative committee. "The special committee will be tasked with an investigation to find out the truth about the deaths as well as to identify remedial measures for their relatives," said Justice Minister Charnchai Likhitjittha. The committee found 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 directly with the murders.

The Nation (an English-language newspaper in Thailand) reported on November 27, 2007:

"Of 2,500 deaths in the government's war on drugs in 2003, a fact-finding panel has found that more than half was not involved in drug at all. At a brainstorming session, a representative from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) Tuesday disclosed that as many as 1,400 people were killed and labeled as drug suspects despite the fact that they had no link to drugs. ... Senior public prosecutor Kunlapon Ponlawan said it was not difficult to investigate extra-judicial killings carried out by police officers as the trigger-pullers usually confessed."

Corruption

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 the a study of Worldwide Governance Indicators by World Bank gave lower score on Control of Corruption during 2002-2005, Thaksin's government, compared to 1998-2000 of earlier government. Thaksin himself has consistently denied any wrongdoing by himself or his Thai Rak Thai party.

Education policies

Thaksin implemented a major series of educational reforms during his government. Chief among those reforms was school decentralization, as mandated by the 1997 People's Constitution. The policy was designed to delegated school management from the over-centralized and bureaucratized Ministry of Education to Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs). The plan met with massive widespread opposition from Thailand's 700,000 teachers, who would be deprived of their status as civil servants. There was also widespread fear from teachers that TAOs lack the skills and capabilities required 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.

Other reforms 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 reach 16,000 Baht a month, with an interest rate equivalent to inflation from the day the loan was granted. The SLF had an eligibility limit on family income but carried interest of 1%, starting one 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 has at least one high-quality school. The project was criticized, with some claiming 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 less than adequate financial support from the central government.

In addition, Thaksin altered the state university entrance system. Whereas the former system relied exclusively on a series of nationally standardized exams, Thaksin pushed for a greater emphasis on senior high-school grades, claiming this would focus students on classroom learning rather than private entrance exam tutoring.

Thaksin initiated the Income Contingency Loan program to increase access to higher education. Under the program, needy students may secure a loan to support their studies from vocational to university levels. Thai banks had traditionally not given education loans. Thaksin 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. However, the military junta later cancelled the project.

Energy policies

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

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 which all have a Muslim, ethnic Malay majority. There is much controversy about the causes of this escalation of the decades long insurgency. Attacks after 2001 concentrated on police, the military, and schools, but civilians have also been targets. Thaksin has been widely criticized for his management of the situation, in particular the storming of the Krue Se Mosque, the deaths of civilian protesters at Tak Bai in Army custody, and the unsolved kidnapping of Muslim-lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit.

In October 2004, 84 Muslim human rights protesters were killed at Tak Bai when the Army broke up a peaceful protest. The many detainees were forced at gunpoint to lie prone in Army trucks, stacked like cordwood. The trucks were delayed from moving to the detainment area for hours. Many detainees suffocated to death due to gross mishandling by the military. After the 2006 coup, the Army dropped all charges and investigations into Army misconduct related to the Tak Bai incident. 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 released in June 2006, the commission proposed introducing Islamic law and making Pattani-Malay (Yawi) an official language in the region. The Thaksin administration assigned a government committee to study the report, while Muslims urged the government to act faster in implementing the proposals.

Administrative reform

Ministerial restructuring

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." Such a restructuring had been studied for years as a means of undermining the perceived rigidities and inertia of the old system, but was never 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.

CEO-governors

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

A key component of Thaksin's administrative reform policy, "CEO-governors" epitomized Thaksin's "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. The CEO-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.

Foreign policies

Thaksin was fiercely attacked for tasking diplomats with supporting domestic economic programs, e.g., promoting OTOP products. Surapong Jayanama, former ambassador to Vietnam claiming that Thaksin's policies were "demeaning" and would do little to enhance Thailand's international stature.

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

Thailand joined George W. Bush's multinational coalition in the 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 has also 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 has also been attacked by influential former diplomats for acting undiplomatically with foreign leaders. Kasit Pirom, former Thai ambassador to Japan and the United States, noted at an anti-Thaksin rally "When Khun Thaksin went to the United Nations to attend a joint UN-Asean session, he did not behave properly when addressing the session, which was co-chaired by the UN secretary-general and the Malaysian premier. In his address Thaksin did not mention the name of the Malaysian premier". Noted that Kasit Pirom is a member and has a long time close tie with Democratic Party, a major political party opposing Thaksin as it lost few elections to Thai Rak Thai Party.

However, he established close, friendly ties with the Burmese dictatorship, including extending the neighboring country a Bt. 4 billion credit line so it could conclude a satellite telecom deal with his family business. Noted that during the time Thaksin was in his office as Prime Minister, he was ambitious to put Thailand as region leader. He proposed, and received with welcome from other South East Asian countries, economic treaty at sub-region level, to promote economic, technology and infra-structure development. Thai government has provided support funding and economic assistance program to her neighbouring country such as Laos, Cambodia.

Thaksin has also been attacked for his support of Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai's failed campaign to become UN Secretary General.

2005 re-election campaign

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.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

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

Some members of Thaksin's government were accused of corruption while overseeing the construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport, the case is still under investigation.

Other criticisms

There have also been 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. In August 2002, he was promoted from Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces Development Command to become Deputy Army Chief. Both General Chaiyasit and Defense Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh denied charges of nepotism at the time. General Chaiyasit replaced General Somthad Attanan as Army commander-in-chief. However, General Chaiyasit was replaced by General Prawit Wongsuwan in August 2004, after only a year in office. His replacement was in response to an escalation of violence in southern Thailand. Prawit was succeeded by Sonthi Boonyaratglin in 2005.

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

Respected 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 Thaksin's family-owned Shin Corporation. The accusation was countered by Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, who attended the state visits with Thaksin.

Thaksin's government has been accused of exerting political influence in its crackdown on unlicensed community radio stations.

Thaksin has also been accused of being superstitious.

Thaksin often faced harsh comparisons. Social critic Prawase Wasi compared him to AIDS, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and Senator Banjerd Singkaneti compared him to Hitler, Democrat spokesman Ong-art Klampaibul compared him to Saddam Hussein, and the newspaper The Nation compared him to Pol Pot.

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

Political crisis of 2005-2006

Accusations by Sondhi Limthongkul

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

Sale of Shin Corporation

On January 23, 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 transaction made the Prime Minister the target of accusations that he was selling an asset of national importance to a foreign entity, and hence selling out his nation.

Anti-Thaksin rallies

Thaksin faced pressure to resign following the sale of Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings.

Anti-Thaksin protestors, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), consisted mainly of middle-class Bangkokians. They also included prominent social figures.

Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul was a prominent leader of the protests. These were joined by academics, students, and the middle class.

House dissolution and the April 2006 Legislative Election

House dissolution

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

Thaksin was criticized for calling the snap elections. In an editorial, The Nation noted that the election "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

Thaksin's TRT Party won a victory in the boycotted elections, with 462 seats in Parliament with ratio of voters to no-voters of 16-10.

However, by-elections were needed for 40 TRT candidates (mostly from the Democrat-dominated south) who failed to win the minimum required 20% in an uncontested vote. The Democrat Party refused to contest the by-elections and, along with the People's Alliance for Democracy, 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".

By-elections

Boycotted by-elections in 40 constituencies on 25 April resulted in the TRT winning 25 of the constituencies and losing in 2 constituencies. Yet another round of by-elections on 29 April was scheduled for 13 constituencies. The Thai Rak Thai Party was later accused of and later found guilty of hiring smaller parties to contest the election, while the Democrat Party was later accused of hiring smaller parties to not contest the election. According to the 1997 Constitution, uncontested election winners must win at least 20% of registered voters. These by-elections were suspended by the Constitution Court while it deliberated whether or not to disqualify the elections.

Invalidation of the April elections

In 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, later set for 15 October. The Court found the Election Commissioners guilty of malfeance in their management of the April election and jailed them. The 15 October election was cancelled when the military seized power on 19 September.

After the April 2006 election

Break from politics

Thaksin announced on April 4, 2006 that he would not accept the post of Prime Minister after the Parliament reconvenes, 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 City, USA to attend a United Nations summit and to speak at the Council on Foreign Relations, the army took control of Bangkok. Inside Government House, close to 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. Troops who refused to take part in the coup took mainly a neutral stance and did nothing to prevent the coup.

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 will be held soon to return democracy to the country. Shinawatra later arrived in Britain, where he has family and stayed at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Later he lived in Woking, Surrey.

Thai Rak Thai party

Many Thai Rak Thai party members were reported to have resigned from the party in the aftermath of the coup. 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 also was reported to have led 20 members of the Chonburi faction in resigning from the party. Fear that the party would be dissolved by the junta and its members banned from politics fueled the defections.

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

Meanwhile, court cases against the Thai Rak Thai and Democrat parties regarding election fraud in the April 2006 elections continued.

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.

Thaksin was assaulted while eating at a Thai restaurant in London. A Thai woman threw a glass at him - it was not known whether he was injured.

His diplomatic passport was revoked in 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 a subsequent trip to Russia to receive an honorary degree in science from the Plehanov Academy of Economics, Thaksin's passport and suitcase were stolen when he was eating at a McDonalds. The Thai Embassy in Moscow was willing to provide him a new travel document.

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 specificies that government officials and their spouses are prohibited from entering into or having interests in contracts made with state agencies under their authorisation. As in truth, this particular law, has been proposed before the Thaksin's regime, by the Democrats.

The Assets Examination Committee also accused Thaksin of issuing an unlawful cabinet resolution approving the spending of state funds to buy rubber saplings. However, it did not accuse him of corruption.

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

The Assets Examination Committee rules that Thaksiin was guilty of malfeasance for obstructing competition by passing an executive decree that imposed an excise tax for telecom operators. Thaksin's Cabinet approved an executive decree in 2003 that forced telecom operators to pay an excise tax of 10% on revenues for mobile phone operations, and 2% for fixed-line operations.

Purchase of Manchester City Football Club

While Prime Minister, Thaksin offered to buy the English Premiership football club Fulham from owner Mohamed al-Fayed. After al-Fayed rebuffed his offer for the club, Thaksin unsuccessfully bid to buy fellow Premiership club Liverpool. It is argued that Thaksin is using this sudden football interest as a publicity stunt in response to his political problems.

On June 21 2007 Thaksin Shinawatra lodged, and had accepted, an £81.6 million bid for another Premiership club, Manchester City. On 6 July he completed purchase of the required 75% of the club's shares to take the company off the Stock Exchange and became Chairman of the club. Sven-Göran Eriksson was appointed the new club manager.

Manchester City supporters nicknamed him Frank, after the singer Frank Sinatra. However, City supporters turned against their new chairman after it appeared he was ready to fire manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, despite him taking City to their joint second highest finishing position in the Premier League since it began in 1992, with their highest being eigthth in the 2004–05 season, and also finishing ninth in the 2002–03 season. Eriksson also ensured City qualification for the UEFA Cup via the UEFA Fair Play ranking, ending the club's five year absence from European competitions. Eriksson was ultimately released by Manchester City on June 2 2008. Most supporters, however, were pleased with the choice of Eriksson's replacement, Mark Hughes.

Apparently in fear of bringing embarrassment to the Club following his skipping of bail from Thai courts, Thaksin decided to offer to step down from his position on August 23 2008. On 1 September 2008 it was reported that Shinawatra had agreed to sell Manchester City to the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (Adug). It was also reported that, if the deal is completed, Shinawatra will become honorary president of the club "without any administrative responsibilities". On 21 September 2008, the relevant documents were signed to completed the take-over, reducing Thaksin's share in the club to ten percent.

Dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party

On 30 May 2007, the Constitutional Tribunal dissolved the Thai Rak Thai Party and banned over 100 of its executives, including Thaksin, from politics for 5 years. The ruling was based on charges that two Thai Rak Thai party executives (Defense Minister Thammarak Issarangkura na Ayudhya and Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn) bribed a smaller party to stand in the April 2006 election. It is also noted that the Democrat party, under the same type of accusation, charges were lifted. Furthermore, article 309 of the 2007's constitution has given full pardon towards any 'Wrong' action taken by the Junta.

Return to Thailand

In May 2007, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Thaksin was free to return to Thailand, and he would personally guarantee Thaksin's safety, heavily conflicting Sonthi's statements. In January 2008 Thaksin's wife Pojaman Shinawatra was arrested on arrival at Bangkok, but was released on bail of 5m baht ($149,000, £75,600) after appearing at the Supreme Court with order not to leave the country. She was set to be tried for alleged violation of stock-trading and land sale laws, but only two relatively minor cases had been successfully filed in court against her.

In February 2008 Thaksin arrived in Bangkok, aboard a Thai Airways flight from Hong Kong, after 17 months in exile. He was arrested on arrival, but was soon was released by the Supreme Court, on bail. Thaksin stated that "he would not re-enter politics and wished to focus on his football interests. In March Thaksin pleaded not guilty before chief judge Thongloh Chom-ngam, Supreme Court in one of his 2 criminal corruption cases. Thaksin was excused to appear on April 29 and at every hearing. The court ordered him to report back on April 11 after granting his monthlong travel 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. It was alleged that he arranged soft loans to Burma to buy telecoms equipment from his Shin Corp. conglomerates, causing the Thai state-owned bank loss of $20 million. 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 a new state lottery in 2003.

Thaksin's wife Pojaman Shinawatra, was found guilty on July 31, and sentenced to three years imprisonment, but was released on $149,000 bail. Bangkok Criminal Court Judge Pramote Pipatpramote also convicted her adopted brother Bhanapot Damapong, and her secretary: "The three defendants have high economic and social status. But, they were working together to avoid taxes, even though the taxes amounted to little compared to their assets.

Request for asylum in Britain

On August 10, 2008, Thaksin and his wife Potjaman Shinawatra flew to London from Beijing, where they had been attending the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. In doing so he violated the terms of his bail. Thaksin said that it was his wish to return to Thailand someday, but claimed it was not currently safe enough for him and his family, not specifying who exactly is threatening his life. Thaksin announced his intention to seek political asylum in Britain. His 3 children had reportedly flown ahead to Britain. Meanwhile, Thailand's Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for both Thaksin and his wife for jumping bail. When Thaksin justified his escape by claiming the Thai judiciary was being meddled with by his political enemies, Thai Supreme Commander Gen. Boonsrang Niempradit and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva accused Thaksin of "hurting" Thailand and damaging its reputation: "His Majesty the King recognizes highly the importance of the judiciary … The public should follow him. The exact meaning or connotation of the term "hurting" has not been exactly specified.

2nd arrest warrant

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions issued a 2nd arrest warrant on September 16, 2008, against fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra on the Exim Bank corruption case (of 4 pending corruption cases). It also ordered suspension of the trial since only his lawyers appeared in court.

However, on September 17, Chief Justice Thonglor Chom-ngarm and the judges unanimously postponed the reading of the verdict to October 21 at 2 pm, and issued the fresh arrest warrant for Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman.

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