Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has made a high-profile return to his homeland after 15 years of self-imposed exile, sparking both jubilation among his supporters and a wave of political intrigue. While his homecoming was marked by fervent celebrations, there are suspicions that a behind-the-scenes deal could potentially limit his time in prison.
Thaksin arrived in Thailand via a private jet on today (22) morning, an event coinciding with the imminent vote for the country’s next leader. The frontrunner for the position hails from Thaksin’s own Pheu Thai party. The former Prime Minister faces multiple sentences of up to eight years on charges he claims are politically motivated.
Throughout his tenure, Thaksin, an ambitious tycoon in the telecom industry, garnered both admiration and fear. His political maneuvers drew opposition from conservative royalists, who supported military coups and legal battles to undermine his authority. However, with his return, Thaksin once again occupies the spotlight, supported by a crowd of devoted followers who had gathered at Bangkok’s main airport to witness his comeback.
Upon landing, Thaksin’s immediate journey led him to the Supreme Court, where he received an eight-year sentence related to the pending charges. He was then transferred to Bangkok Remand Prison, a move that prompted assurances from the Department of Corrections about his safety and supervision.
Among the crowd of supporters who awaited his return, many shared their admiration for Thaksin, lauding him as the best prime minister Thailand has seen. One of them, Samniang Kongpolparn, expressed her unwavering support, despite not being able to personally meet him. She voiced her acceptance of a potential reconciliation between Thaksin’s party and the pro-military government, emphasizing the need to avoid a continuation of the current political climate.
Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party is expected to form part of a coalition government, marking a complex turn of events in Thailand’s political landscape. Initially, it seemed that the Move Forward party, which captured the most seats in the recent election, would usher in a new era. However, the coalition now appears set to include nearly all parties except for the reform-oriented groups.
Pheu Thai’s strategic decisions have been influenced by the constraints posed by an unelected senate comprising 250 members, a vestige of the military junta’s influence following the 2014 coup. The party’s bargaining power was weakened by its performance in the elections, leading to a decrease in support and a subsequent partnership with former coup-makers, despite previous promises to the contrary.
The senators, handpicked during the junta’s reign, play a crucial role in electing the new prime minister alongside the elected MPs. Their objective is to preserve the established power dynamics involving the monarchy, military, and influential business interests. This led to a refusal to support the Move Forward-led coalition, and Pheu Thai had to incorporate some of its former adversaries to secure senatorial backing.
While Pheu Thai’s leadership focused on securing its position in government and facilitating Thaksin’s return, critics within the party raised concerns about the pragmatic nature of this maneuver. Some worry that the party’s long-standing grassroots support could erode further, potentially reshaping Thailand’s electoral politics for years to come.