By Pasuk Phongpaichit & Chris Baker
In the early 1990s, Thaksin Shinawatra came from nowhere to become a multi-billionaire in just four years.
In 2001, he was elected prime minister on a single-minded promise to accelerate Thailand to first-world status through unrestrained capitalist growth.
In 2009, over video link from exile in Dubai, he urged thousands of red-shirted supporters to revolution, provoking days of street fighting and the biggest-ever domestic operation by the Thai army.
From 2001 to 2009, Thaksinís tenure gave new meaning to the role of prime minister and transformed Thai politics. It is an extraordinary story involving four landslide elections, a military coup, a demonstration lasting half a year, the popular mobilization of people in color-coded street armies, the occupation of Bangkokís international airports, assassination plots, and the flight of Asian leaders from a regional meeting by helicopter.
The first edition of this book was published in 2004, and the original chapters remain unchanged. They trace Thaksinís family background, his meteoric success as a telecommunications entrepreneur, his bid for the premiership, and the key polices and achievements of his years in power.
In the expanded second edition, four new chapters and a conclusion trace in detail the protracted story of Thaksinís downfall. He was opposed by social activists critical of his neoliberal policies, by human rights defenders appalled at his callous authoritarianism, by royalists who imagined him as a threat to Thailandís revered monarch, by businessmen who resented his nepotism and cronyism, and by a broader middle class who saw him as corrupt, untrustworthy, and dangerous. But at the same time, he drew passionate support from farmers and provincial businessmen who welcomed his policies to spread wealth, expand social services, and empower the common man.
Thaksin exposed the deep divisions in Thai society and made them matter in politics. This theme has echoes in the divided politics of many other middle-income countries including Venezuela, Turkey, and Iran.
About the Authors
Pasuk Phongpaichit is professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Chris Baker is an independent writer. Together they have also written Thailand: Economy and Politics, Thailandís Boom and Bust, and Thailandís Crisis.
Chiang Mai 2009
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