Reconciliation in Thailand is the priority for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, brother of the latest election winner. As his sister strives to move politics forward, the multi-millionaire in exile in Dubai, after his banishment by Thailand’s armed forces five years ago, feels he can afford to be patient.
He said: “I’m not in a hurry to go back, I want to see the reconciliation to happen first. If there is reconciliation and I can be part of the solution the I will be there. If I will be part of the problem then I will not be there.”
Thaksin Shinawatra is the keystone of divisions in Thailand, with charges of terrorism held against him for his alleged support of demonstrations in spring last year. Some 100,000 red-shirt Thaksin partisans made a show of force for two months in the capital Bangkok. They claimed their side had won the elections. The army finally disbanded them by force. The clashes left more than 90 dead and 1,800 injured.
The build-up had begun in September 2006, when the Thai military launched a coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government. It had won re-election in 2005, after a first victory in 2001. But accusations of corruption grew louder, from the opposition yellow shirts. The army took its cue, with the backing of the Democratic Party, the anarchists and rich elite.
In 2008, after his side’s electoral gains, Thaksin Shinawatra returned from exile in London to stand trial on corruption charges against him and his wife. It is possible he believed the charges would not stand, but with power reinforced by a new constitution, upheld by the military, the Supreme Court convicted him, albeit in absentia, since he had skipped the country again. He has not been back to Thailand since.
Although adored by many in rural parts, others loathe him. Considering him a threat to the monarchy, they prefer him to stay well out of Bangkok.