Thaksin Returns

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has returned to Bangkok 17 months after being deposed in a military coup. Thaksin has repeatedly denied that he intends to reenter politics, from which he has been barred for five years. But how realistic is it to expect so driven and flamboyant a man to stay away from the limelight?

Thaksin already is believed by many to be providing advice to the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Indeed, Samak’s People Power Party (PPP) is widely considered a proxy for Thaksin. It was, after all, formed from the remains of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party, which was disbanded after the coup.

Of course Thaksin’s political revival can’t get underway unless and until he has been acquitted of corruption charges. But he is likely to have made all the calculations related to the charges and other allegations before leaving London, and to have concluded that his chances of remaining free are high. After all, Thaksin is too serious a man to risk freedom for the sake of sentimentality.

Moreover, he remains very popular in Thailand, if not in Bangkok. His presence in the country might well spark a clamor for his “reluctant” return to politics.