22nd September 2023 – (Bangkok) Thailand’s ruling party has announced its intention to potentially involve incarcerated former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an advisor to the new government, a decision likely to provoke controversy among the billionaire’s critics.
Thaksin, aged 74, was overthrown in a military coup in 2006, and upon his recent return to the country, he was promptly imprisoned for past convictions related to corruption and abuse of power.
The current Thai Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, from Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party, stated earlier this week that the two-time premier still has the potential to serve his nation.
Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai expressed his support for the idea of Thaksin acting as a government advisor, highlighting the former leader’s six years of governmental experience and the potential benefits for the country.
A party insider confirmed to AFP that the new coalition government, led by Pheu Thai, plans to consult Thaksin once he is released from prison.
Srettha believes that Thaksin, known for his “Thaksinomics” policies that fostered rapid growth in the early 2000s, could offer valuable assistance as the government aims to achieve five per cent annual economic growth.
During an interview with Bloomberg TV at the UN General Assembly in New York, Srettha stated, “I believe he has value to add to the government and to the people of Thailand. He was, and probably still is, the most popular prime minister in the history of Thai politics.”
However, Thaksin remains a deeply polarising figure, despite being adored by millions of Thais for his efforts to improve rural incomes.
Thailand’s royalist and pro-military elite have long held a strong aversion towards him, and the country’s political landscape has been significantly influenced by the establishment’s attempts to keep Thaksin and his allies away from power over the past two decades.
Shortly after his imprisonment, Thaksin was transferred to a private room in a police hospital due to his deteriorating health. Reports suggest that he underwent surgery last week, according to his daughter.
Speculation has arisen regarding a potential clandestine agreement to grant Thaksin leniency in his prison sentence in exchange for Pheu Thai’s inclusion of pro-military parties in its governing alliance.