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Thailand's former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Not now, Thaksin!

We recently predicted that the shadow of self-exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra would loom large over the May 14 Thai election. Now the stakes just got a lot higher.

On Tuesday, Thaksin announced that he plans to return before his 74th birthday in July, almost 15 years after he skipped town when he was about to go on trial for corruption. Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, was ultimately convicted in absentia of several charges that add up to over a decade in prison.

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Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai party's prime ministerial candidate, at a campaign event in Bangkok.

REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

Thaksin’s shadow looms large over upcoming Thai election

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra remains a powerful force in Thai politics 17 years after the military ousted the billionaire businessman from office and drove him out of the country. His party, Pheu Thai (or its predecessors), has won the largest number of seats in every election since 2001 with its populist appeals to the rural poor. But it has been twice ousted from power via military coups. In addition to Thaksin (Thais go by their given name), his sister Yingluck suffered a similar fate, in 2014.

Ahead of the May 14 elections for the House of Representatives, Pheu Thai is getting a fresh boost from the next generation: Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn, 36, has emerged as an energetic campaigner and one of the main contenders for prime minister. Yet Pheu Thai faces a battle obtaining the nation’s top job given the conservative establishment’s dominance of the political system.

We asked Eurasia Group expert Peter Mumford to explain why.

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Paetongtarn Shinawatra

Annie Gugliotta (image with CC license)

Can Thaksin rule again in Thailand?

Get ready for some major political trouble later this year in the Land of Smiles.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of deposed former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, is mulling a run for her dad’s old job. Over the weekend, Paetongtarn — Thais go by their given name — got a lot of buzz at the assembly of Thaksin’s Pheu Thai Party, calling for a landslide victory in a snap election expected to be called in November.

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