BANGKOK, THAILAND: In a surprising turn of events, Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire former prime minister of Thailand, has revealed plans to end his 15-year self-exile and return to the kingdom on 10 August.
The announcement was made by his daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, on Wednesday, which also marked Thaksin’s 74th birthday. Thaksin, who was twice elected as prime minister but was ousted by a military coup in 2006, has expressed his longstanding desire to return home despite facing multiple criminal charges that he vehemently believes are politically motivated.
Thaksin’s imminent return has sent shockwaves through Thailand’s political landscape, stirring a mix of excitement and apprehension among the populace. Regarded as a “bogeyman” by Thailand’s pro-military and royalist establishment, his presence could further exacerbate the already tense political situation prevailing in the country.
The kingdom is currently grappling with a political deadlock, as the military-dominated Senate obstructed the head of the Move Forward Party (MFP) from assuming the position of prime minister, even after the reformist party emerged victorious in the May elections.
Paetongtarn, who was herself a candidate for prime minister from the Pheu Thai party, which secured the second position in the elections, conveyed her emotions about her father’s return on her official Facebook page.
She wrote, “I can’t believe what I am about to write. Dad is coming back on Aug 10 at Don Meung airport,” expressing a mix of emotions within the family.
Despite the overwhelming happiness, she admitted to feeling worried, given the potential repercussions of Thaksin’s return to the political landscape. However, she emphasized that the family fully respects his decision.
Thaksin himself had hinted at his return to Thailand through social media before the May elections, stating that he intended to come back “before my birthday.” He cited the desire to spend quality time with his grandchildren as a motivating factor, considering his advancing age.
Despite being convicted in absentia on corruption charges in 2008, Thaksin has been vocal about his readiness to face the courts and clear his name. Throughout his exile, he has faced several other legal cases, all of which he claims to be politically motivated attempts to discredit him.
Thaksin’s political influence has been undeniable in Thailand, with parties associated with him dominating the nation’s political landscape since 2001. However, their rule has faced tumultuous challenges, with two prime ministers being toppled by military coups and another ousted by a court ruling.
As the date of Thaksin’s return approaches, the country anticipates significant shifts in its political dynamics. With Thailand already teetering on a knife’s edge, all eyes are on how Thaksin’s comeback will impact the nation’s future. Many questions remain unanswered, and only time will reveal the true ramifications of his return from exile.
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