Thaksin's confrontational style led to his removal
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Thaksin's confrontational style led to his removal

The PM had no shortage of enemies, who claimed he was arrogant and someone who survived by pitting the rural majority against the country's urban elite.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2006 15:21 IST

Eighteen months ago, tycoon-turned-politician Thaksin Shinawatra won a landslide election victory and became a rising star on the regional stage. Today, he is out of a job after a coup and considering life in exile.

It was a dramatic fall for the 57-year-old billionaire known as the CEO prime minister for his corporate style but also a fate that critics said was deserved.

He had no shortage of enemies in Thailand who claimed he was authoritarian, arrogant and someone who survived by pitting the rural majority against the country's urban elite.

"We warned Thaksin a long time ago about this. We repeatedly said that Thaksin and his system would be a condition for a coup," said Suriyasai Katasila, a spokesman for the anti-Thaksin protest group People's Alliance for Democracy.

"Thaksin and the government just claimed that they won the election by a landslide, so they could use their power as they pleased," he said.

Thaksin, who hails from a family of silk merchants and was educated in the United States, rose to power in 2001 on a raft of populist policies as Thailand was recovering from Asia's devastating financial crisis.

He described himself a new breed of politician, who could revitalize Thailand by running it like a company.

Despite his questionable ethics, Thaksin won over voters by accusing the incumbent Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of failing to properly manage the country's economy and of neglecting the poor.

Thaksin nurtured his core constituency in the countryside, lavishing the poor rural majority with virtually free health care, a three-year debt suspension program for farmers and low-interest loans for poor villages.

But his popularity in the countryside was matched by growing criticism in the cities, where activists and intellectuals portrayed him as an autocrat masquerading as a democrat.

They accused him of disregarding human rights, muffling the press and blurring the lines between his private businesses and politics.

Thaksin came under fire for his war on drugs in 2003 that left 2,300 Thais dead over a three-month period.

He was also accused of mishandling the worsening Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand, after he imposed a state of the emergency that led to rights abuses and failed to stem the violence that has left more than 1,700 dead since 2004.

First Published: Sep 21, 2006 15:21 IST