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Thailand’s Thaksin: 20 years of triumphs and tribulation

BANGKOK, Feb. 18 :
(AFP) – Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra left police hospital on Sunday in the latest twist in a dramatic career that has seen electoral success, a military coup, self-exile and criminal charges.

Here are some of the key moments in the 74-year-old billionaire’s career over the past two decades.

– 2001: rise to power –
Thaksin, a former policeman who made a fortune in telecoms, sweeps to power in a general election as leader of his Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party, promising social welfare schemes.

– 2005: second victory –
Thaksin leads the first civilian administration to complete a four-year term in a history marked by army takeovers, then secures a landslide second election win.

– 2006: coup –
Amid mounting criticism of his financial dealings, Thaksin calls another election, which is boycotted by opposition parties.
Months of instability follow until in September the military topples Thaksin in a bloodless coup while he is at the UN in New York.

– 2007: Man City buyout –
Despite his ouster and growing legal worries, Thaksin buys a 75-percent stake in Manchester City football club for $162.6 million, selling it little more than a year later to an Abu Dhabi-backed group.

– 2008-10: convictions and colour protests –
Thaksin is convicted in absentia in 2008 on corruption charges he says are politically motivated, and flees into self-exile.
Anti-Thaksin protesters known as “Yellow Shirts” storm Bangkok’s airports, shutting them down to protest against a Thaksin ally serving as premier — who is soon removed.

In 2010, pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts” stage vast protests in Bangkok which end in bloodshed when the army opens fire, killing more than 90 people.

– 2011-14: sister act –
Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra is elected as Thailand’s first female prime minister. But she is dogged by claims she is a puppet for her brother, and once again protesters take to the streets.

An election in 2014 is annulled and the military — led by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha — seizes power.
– 2019-22: the Tony Woodsome years –

Prayut switches from junta chief to prime minister after an election in 2019, with Thaksin’s Pheu Thai party shut out of government despite winning the most seats.

Thaksin, now living mostly in Dubai, regularly addresses his supporters back home through the social media platform Clubhouse, under the alias Tony Woodsome.

He frequently speaks of his intention to return to Thailand but, with his old foes in the military running the country, shows little sign of acting.

– 2023: the return –
Pheu Thai comes second in a general election but ends up forming a government in coalition with military-linked parties that were once Thaksin’s bitter adversaries.

He returns to the kingdom on the day Pheu Thai’s PM candidate is approved by parliament, touching down to a hero’s welcome from his supporters.

A court immediately sentences him to eight years in jail for the convictions passed in his absence, but the king swiftly reduces that to one year.

– 2024: home at last –
The justice ministry says Thaksin is elgible for early release because of his age and poor health.

And on Sunday he leaves the police hospital in central Bangkok where he has spent the last half year and returns home.

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