The Economist: “Thaksin Times”


LESS than two years ago Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister of Thailand and something of an establishment outsider, appeared to be winning his bitter battle against the traditional elites in Bangkok, the capital. They, led by the army, had toppled Mr Thaksin in a coup in 2006. But Pheu Thai, the party he directs from self-imposed exile in Dubai, rocketed back to power in 2011 with his sister, Yingluck, at the helm. And in November 2013 Ms Yingluck’s government promised a blanket amnesty wiping out a corruption charge preventing Mr Thaksin from returning.

Ms Yingluck’s impeachment—ostensibly for failing to tackle fraud made possible by a costly rice-subsidy scheme—marks a new phase in the army’s rule. Right after last year’s coup, General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his fellow officers said they favoured reconciliation over revenge. By and large, elected politicians of all hues co-operated with the army, leaving journalists, academics and other activists to suffer most under martial law (a large number of dissidents are thought to be in jail). But the persecution of Ms Yingluck suggests that “the gloves are starting to come off”, says Daniel Giles of Vriens & Partners, a political consultancy. The criminal case against Ms Yingluck could mean ten years in jail—a threat that, the generals perhaps hope, will encourage her to flee the country.

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