Thaksin – The Business of Politics in Thailand

Book review of Thaksin - The Business of Politics in Thailand - Asia Times, August 21, 2004
It is becoming an act of courage in Thailand to fire a volley of criticism at Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, or the wealthy empire over which his family presides.
...The victims who have fallen by the roadside because of the belief they were doing their bit as citizens of a democracy are an eclectic mix. They included academics, bureaucrats, journalists and grass-roots activists. Some were fired from their jobs; some were bullied into silence; some were quietened by other means, such as money.
...Their research brings to the fore aspects of Thaksin's past that explain the reasons behind some of his strong views - development is more important than democracy, for instance - and why the language he speak resonates with a large portion of Thais.
...That he went about building himself up as a businessman while still working as a police officer was of little worry to him. During this time, he opened a silk shop, distributed films and built an apartment block, all ventures that ended in failure and left him in debt.
By the time he turned his attention to telecommunications, Thaksin had acquired skills that helped him on the road to wealth. He had learned how government officials and the business community struck deals for mutual benefit and discovered the key to success in Thailand: knowing "a lot of people".
...Moreover, the language Thaksin was speaking appeared a perfect antidote to a business community that had taken a heavy beating during the 1997 financial crisis.
The "new politics" he was advocating also made inroads into a sector that had largely been ignored or marginalized by the Thai political establishment up to that point - the rural poor.
Pasuk and Baker do credit Thaksin for breaking new ground here by not only offering policies to alleviate the suffering of the poor, but by delivering on his promises soon after his party won the largest parliamentary majority in Thailand's history.
...Sadly, what the book lacks is a chapter explaining why the majority of Thais appear to be happy with their leader, despite what his critics say...
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