“Welcome to the Republic of Thaksin.” You won’t see these words displayed in the customs hall when arriving in Thailand, but the Land of Smiles has indeed morphed into the land of Thaksin Shinawatra.
That should be giving Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy plenty to frown about. Seven years after the former prime minister was ousted in a coup, Thaksin’s long shadow continues to dominate Thai politics. Since then, the country has seen six prime ministers, the most recent one being Thaksin’s baby sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Like many loving siblings, Yingluck looks out for her kin. Recently she tried to ram a get-out-of-jail-free card for Thaksin and other politicians through the parliament — as big a political blunder as Asia has seen in years. Markets plunged and more than 32,000 people joined demonstrations in the capital and 17 other provinces. This week, Yingluck backed down and agreed to scrap the bill for now.
But anyone who thinks that’s the end of Thailand’s Thaksin nightmare is wrong
The proud and acerbic billionaire, Asia’s answer to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, isn’t about to shelve his obsession with returning home, reclaiming the portion of his telecommunications fortune frozen by the state and succeeding his sister. Many fear Yingluck is little more than a placeholder for big bro.