There is simply no grey area when it comes to Thaksin Shinawatra, people either love him or hate him. It is this love hate feeling about this want to be dictator that is causing the political problems in Thailand. Even that Thaksin has been removed from the political landscape, he is still the cause of today’s political turmoil in Thailand.
As the political problems in Thailand look to be long and drawn out, it is best to understand the root cause, and that cause is Thaksin Shinawatra. Without getting into all the intricate details about Thaksin, this post hopes to fill in enough of the blanks for people to have a better understanding of what is going on in Thailand and why.
In February 2001, Thaksin Shinawatra assumed the post of Thailand’s Prime Minister. Thaksin is a business man with a CEO mentality to make money. To be a successful business man, a person has to have the ability to think things out to conclusion. This is one of Thaksin’s strongest traits and is not common amongst Thais in general. Anyone who has dealings in Thailand will identify with 2 steps forward and 1 step back is they way things often go. For whatever reason that is the way it is. It can be frustrating to both the observer and the person doing all the stepping. Because of Thaksin’s ability to think things out, he was naturally seen as a leader.
Thaksin also courted the poor rural Thais of northeast Thailand in a region known as Isaan. In Isaan, many of the Thais are poor and undereducated, and they were neglected by previous governments. Thaksin concluded that this would be his power base simply by the sheer number of votes wen election time rolled around. So with Thaksin giving them pennies on the dollar so to speak, he won them over. However because The Thais in Isaan were undereducated, they actually got a raw deal and only a fraction of what they were entitled to. The difference simply went into Thaksin’s pocket. However the Isaan Thais were extremely happy they got anything at all.
As time progressed Thaksin became more and more arrogant. He did not listen to any of his advisories and frequently put them down causing then loss of face. However because Thaksin was paying them well to do what he said without question, they endured the abuse. In Asia Face has value the same as money. People have been known to commit suicide because they lost face.
With Thaksin’s CEO mentality he set about only doing tasks that he could make money. If there was a no brainer project that needed to get done, it would simply sit until Thaksin could figure out how to make money from it.
As Thaksin’s arrogance and greed for power and money grew, Thaksin’s government was frequently challenged with allegations of corruption, dictatorship, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting undiplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. He was accused of lèse-majesté, selling domestic assets to international investors, and religious desecration. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, 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 extrajudicial killings.
In the start of 2006 Thaksin dissolved parliament that set off a chain of events that lead to the September 2006 coup. That will be covered in part 2.