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The January 2001 general election in Thailand
Biography of Thaksin Shinawatra

Article added on January 10, 2001

 
According to unofficial results, Thaksin Shinawatra's populist Thai Rak Thai Party has won 257 of 500 seats in Thailand's parliament. It is the biggest landslide victory since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932. The Thai Rak Thai may even have won an absolute majority. The Democrat Party led by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has only won 128 seats, mainly in its heartland in Southern Thailand. Leekpai immediately acknowledged defeat.
 
Last month, Thailand's National Counter Corruption Commission ruled that Thaksin Shinawatra had intentionally concealed assets worth over $230 million when he served as Deputy Prime Minister in 1997. Despite the possibility that Thaksin could be forced out of office within six months and banned from politics for five years, he wants to form a coalition government in the next days.
 
The Election Commission in Thailand found important voting irregularities in six constituencies where it stopped counting and ordered fresh polls. New elections are not expected to dramatically change the outcome. The House of Representatives in Thailand consists of five hundred members, of which one hundred are elected on a party-list basis (with Thailand as one constituency) and four hundred elected on a constituency basis. Only candidates of parties receiving more than 5% of the total number of votes throughout the country are elected.
 
The current coalition government was ousted despite a Prime Minister with integrity, Chuan Leekpai, and a record that is not too bad. The 2001 election marks a return to populist politics in a country with a high-level of illiteracy and a history of corruption and election rigging. The rural and uneducated voters decided in favor of the Thai Rak Thai Party and its billionaire leader Thaksin who promised almost everything to everybody.


 
Thailand was hard hit by the Asian crisis of 1997. Ousted Prime Minister Leekpai took over in times of trouble and managed a more or less successful transition. But in the ranks of his coalition government, corruption still existed. More importantly, Thaksin announced a program of huge credits to all 70,000 Thai peasant villages and to impose a three-year moratorium on interest payments by indebted farmers. A majority of the 44 million Thai voters are peasants. Thaksin also promised to take care of the heavy burden of rotten bank credits.

The 51-year old Thaksin Shinawatra is considered Thailand's richest man. In 1973, he was a police lieutenant colonel. He earned a doctorate in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in the United States. In 1987, he headed for the private sector and became a distributor of IBM computers and software. His primary customers were government offices and state enterprises. He won a government licence to build a pager service and mobile phone network for Bangkok. In less than a decade, he built Shin Corps, Thailand's leading telecommunications group. Today, Shin Corps operates three satellites with government licences. In 1994, Thaksin entered politics as a member of Palang Dharma (Power of Virtue), a Buddhist party. Shortly afterwards, he rose to the top of the party. In 1995, Thaksin Shinawatra became Deputy Prime Minister. In the Asian economic crisis of 1997, Thaksin had a second chance to act as Deputy Prime Minister. As Prime Minister Chavalit was forced to resign three months later, he had to leave office. In 1998, Thaksin Shinawatra founded the Thai Rak Thai Party (Thai Loves Thai). In less than three years, it has become the country's number one party.


Added on June 7, 2010
In September 2006, when he was in New York, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by the military. The same year, his relatives had soltd off their $1.9 billion stake in Shin Corp, the telecommunications company founded by Thaksin, to a state company from Singapore (Temasek Holdings). The fine print: the relatives had sold their shares tax free, thanks to a tailor-made law for the Thaksin family. The outrage in Bangkok about another corruption scandal involving their Prime Minister was not shared by the Thai Rak Thai Party voters. In December 2007, Thaksin's People's Power Party (founded by the members of the outlawed Thai Rak Thai Party) won the post-coup elections. In October 2008, in absentia, the Thai Supreme court found Thaksin Shinawatra guilty of conflict of interest and sentenced him to two years in jail. At the end of 2008, his political allies were forced out of power. In February 2010, Thailand's Supreme Court seized $1.4 billion of Thaksin's assets on the ground that the money had been acquired through abuse of power, corruption and conflict of interest. In 2010, the Red Shirts, Thaksin's supporters, protested in favor of their former leader and to force the current government to step down. The military crackdown started on May 19. By the end of May, the death toll stood about at 85 and some 1900 people had been injured. - Thai sheet music.



Facts and Figures
Unofficial 2010 electoral results, 500-member parliament:
- Thai Rak Thai              257 seats
- Democrat Party           128 seats
- Chart Thai Party           39 seats
- New Aspiration Party  34 seats
- Chart Pattana Party      27 seats
- Seritham Party               12 seats

Order the book The King Never Smiles by Paul M. Handley (Yale University Press, 2006, 499 pages) from Amazon.com or Amazon.de. It is one of the rare books critical of the Thai King Bhumibol. Paul M. Handley is a freelance journalist who lived and worked 13 years in Thailand. - Thai sheet music.



Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.