10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin Shinawatra, the controversial Thai entrepreneur and politician, has been a prominent figure in Thai politics for many years. Known for his populist policies and his rise to power as Prime Minister, Thaksin has left an indelible mark on Thailand’s political landscape. While many people are familiar with his public persona, there are numerous lesser-known facts about Thaksin that shed light on his life and career. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Thaksin Shinawatra:

1. A Successful Businessman

Before entering the political arena, Thaksin Shinawatra had a highly successful career as a businessman. He founded the Shin Corporation, a diversified conglomerate, which grew to become one of Thailand’s largest telecommunications and media companies. Thaksin’s business acumen and strategic vision played a crucial role in his ascent to power, and his wealth and success positioned him as a formidable political force.

2. The First Thai Majority Shareholder in a Foreign Premier League Football Club

Thaksin Shinawatra made history in 2007 when he became the majority shareholder of Manchester City Football Club, becoming the first Thai national to own a stake in a Premier League team. His ownership had a significant impact on the club, leading to major investments in players and infrastructure that transformed Manchester City into a title-winning and globally recognized football powerhouse.

3. War on Drugs

A controversial aspect of Thaksin Shinawatra’s tenure as Prime Minister was his aggressive approach to the war on drugs. His policies aimed at combating drug trafficking through a heavy-handed crackdown resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings. While some lauded his tough stance, others criticized the violation of human rights and the lack of due process during the campaign.

4. Policies for the Rural Poor

Thaksin implemented various policies aimed at improving the lives of Thailand’s rural poor. He introduced universal healthcare, established microfinance programs, and initiated infrastructure development projects in rural areas. These policies helped to address socio-economic disparities and garnered significant support from the rural population.

5. Exile and Political Asylum

Following his overthrow in a military coup in 2006, Thaksin faced numerous legal challenges and was eventually sentenced to a two-year imprisonment for corruption charges. Fearing persecution and imprisonment, he went into self-imposed exile. Thaksin was granted political asylum in several countries, including the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, where he currently resides.

6. A Passion for Music

Thaksin Shinawatra not only has a keen interest in politics and business but also has a passion for music. He is an avid musician and played the saxophone in his younger years. Thaksin has been known to perform at public events and gatherings, showcasing his musical talents.

7. Philanthropy and Social Initiatives

Beyond his entrepreneurial and political endeavors, Thaksin is actively involved in philanthropy and social initiatives. He has established charitable foundations to support various causes, including education, healthcare, and disaster relief. Thaksin remains committed to giving back to society and improving the lives of others.

8. Telecom Revolution

During his time as Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra led a telecom revolution in Thailand. His policies aimed to bridge the digital divide and promote digital inclusion by providing affordable access to telecommunications services, particularly in rural areas. This initiative spurred unprecedented growth in the telecommunications sector and greatly improved connectivity across the country.

9. Controversial Sale of Shin Corporation

One of the most contentious episodes in Thaksin’s career was the 2006 sale of his family’s stake in Shin Corporation. The sale to a Singaporean investment firm raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest and sparked widespread outrage among Thais who felt that national assets were being sold to foreign investors. The sale and subsequent use of the profits became a focal point for dissent against Thaksin’s administration.

10. Populist Policies and Grassroots Support

A key to Thaksin Shinawatra’s lasting influence and popularity lies in his ability to connect with ordinary Thai citizens. His implementation of populist policies, such as low-cost healthcare and rural development initiatives, resonated with the working class and rural communities. Thaksin’s government was successful in rallying grassroots support, establishing a strong base of followers who continue to shape Thai politics to this day.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s life and career are multifaceted, with both accolades and controversies. Understanding the lesser-known aspects of his life helps paint a more comprehensive picture of this influential figure in Thai politics.

Useful Links:

BBC: Thaksin Shinawatra Profile
CFR: Thaksin Shinawatra and the Future of Thai Politics
The Star: Thaksin Shinawatra and The Curious Case of Dubai