What next for Thaksin Shinawatra?

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | What next for Thaksin Shinawatra?

BBC NEWS
What next for Thaksin Shinawatra?

For a man so unused to defeat, Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra must be bewildered by how quickly he lost power.

On Tuesday, having flown to New York to deliver a speech to the UN, he instead received news that he had been overthrown in a military coup.

He initially phoned a Thai television station to declare a state of emergency, but was cut off by military censors after 10 minutes.

His speech to the General Assembly, scheduled for Wednesday, was brought forward to Tuesday evening before being cancelled altogether.

While in the US, with telephone links affected, Mr Thaksin was reported to have been able to do little but watch events unfold on a TV set in his room at the plush Grand Hyatt hotel.

UK ties

The billionaire businessman-turned-politician flew into London on Wednesday, arriving at Gatwick Airport on a Thai Airways flight.

He emerged from an apartment block in central London on Thursday morning to dozens of reporters and photographers but said only that he was going to buy groceries.

It would be difficult to Thaksin to come back quickly, but there’s always a possibility he’ll return one day
Dr Pasuk Pongpaijitr
Thai political economist

Shortly before, a statement from his office said Mr Thaksin “as of now will take a deserved rest”.

It went on to say that he planned “to work on research, on development and possible charitable work for Thailand”.

No decision has yet been made about his charitable work, according to his chief policy adviser Pansak Vinyaratn, but it will be “something like development of the economy”.

“You have to think what is the most effective charitable work,” Mr Pansak was quoted by the International Herald Tribune as saying. “Something like development of the economy. Not rocket science.”

Mr Thaksin has a property in London, and a daughter studying in the British capital, but it is thought he may only remain in the city for a few more days.

“We won’t just stay in London. We will probably go to Europe to have a rest,” Mr Pansak said.

Mr Thaksin’s wife reportedly flew to London on 25 September. It is not known where his son and other daughter are.

Family wealth

Thailand’s coup leader, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, has said Mr Thaksin may return to the country but warned that he could face criminal charges.

He refused to be drawn on whether the military would seize Mr Thaksin’s considerable assets in Thailand, saying only: “Everything will comply with the law. Anybody who has committed a wrongdoing must be held responsible.”

The sale of Mr Thaksin’s stake in the telecoms firm he founded, Shin Corp, to Singapore investors at the beginning of the year led to the current political crisis.

Many Thais were enraged that the family had sold off a national asset, and had not paid tax on the $1.9bn deal.

But while support for him has dropped in Thailand’s urban areas, Mr Thaksin retains support in the countryside.

Thai political economist Dr Pasuk Pongpaijitr says it may be difficult for the ousted leader to return in the short term, “but there’s always a possibility he’ll return one day”.

“Having a lot of money means he definitely has options,” she adds.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Thaksin, who has played such a big part in both the political and business life of Thailand, will settle for a life in exile.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/5362720.stm

Published: 2006/09/25 09:25:49 GMT

© BBC MMVI

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