In Conversation with Thaksin Shinawatra
Thaksin Shinawatra is one of the most influential — and polarising — characters in Thai politics. Born in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Mr. Thaksin started his career as a police officer and later received a government scholarship to study for a master degree in criminal justice in the United States. When he returned he went into business, and during the late 1980s began building a successful telecommunications empire. He founded the Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party in 1998, transforming the country's politics. Mr. Thaksin swept into office in 2001, defeating the Democrat Party. Poorer voters liked his offers of cheap medical care and debt relief, his nationalist platform and his contempt for the "Bangkok elite." But big business also liked him for his CEO-style of government and his "Thaksinomics" policies, which created a new boom in the country.
Mr. Thaksin was the first prime minister in Thailand's history to lead an elected government through a full term in office. After more than five years in power, while he was at the UN General Conference, he was ousted in a military coup in September 2006, politically accused of corruption and abuse of power. He has been in self-imposed exile since after being convicted in absentia on a conflict-of-interest charge. Recently, he won ABLF Statesmanof the Year Award.
Asia Society President’s Circle programs are off the record, and kept small to facilitate greater discussion.