Childhood & Early Life
Thaksin Shinawatra was born on July 26, 1949, in San Kamphaeng village, in Chiang Mai province of Thailand, to Loet Shinawatra and Yindi Ramingwong. Loet was an MP from Chiang Mai from 1969 to 1976. Later he quit politics and made lot of money from business and farming.
Thaksin spent the first fifteen years of his life at San Kamphaeng. At sixteen, he shifted to Chang Mai city. There he attended Montfort College, one of the most prestigious schools in Thailand. At the same time, he began to help his father in running one of his two cinema halls.
After graduation, Thaksin entered the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School and then got admission to the Thai Police Cadet Academy. He graduated from there in 1973 and joined the police force.
Soon after, he won a scholarship and joined Eastern Kentucky University (USA) to study Criminal Justice. He graduated from there with a master’s degree in 1975. He then returned to Thailand.
Thaksin now began to teach at the Police Cadet Academy. Later for a short period he was sent on a special duty under the Prime Minister’s office. After some time, he again returned to the United States. In 1978, he received his doctorate on Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University (Texas).
On coming back to Thailand, Thaksin rejoined the police force as the Deputy Superintendent of the Policy and Planning Sub-division. He also served the General Staff Division, and Metropolitan Police Bureau. By the time he left the police force in 1987 he had reached the position of the lieutenant colonel.
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Shinawatra opened different business ventures while he was still working in the police department. However, all of them failed leaving him with a huge debt. Later he used his family and police connections to go into service industry; but that too did not succeed. His luck began to change from the beginning of 1986.
In April 1986, he founded a computer rental company, named Advanced Info Service. Next year in 1987, he went into entertainment industry and marketed a romance drama, which became a hit. This was the year he founded his Shinawatra Computer and Communications Group, which was listed in 1990.
In 1988, Shinawatra started marketing PacLink Pager with Pacific Telesis. Later in 1989, he established a cable television company IBC and a data networking service, Shinawatra DataCom, which was later taken over by AIS and TOT. Today, it is known as Advance Data Network.
In 1990, Shinawatra turned his Advanced Info Service into a mobile networking company. Using his influence he got a 20 year monopoly contract with the army and made a lot of money from it. Later, he incorporated his companies under a conglomerate named ‘Shin Corporation’.
Thaksin Shinawatra joined politics in 1994. He was immediately appointed as the Foreign Minister in the government of Chamlong Srimuang, the leader of Palang Dharma Party (PDP). Later as Chamlong’s popularity began to wane Thaksin was picked up as the new PDP leader.
PDP contested the 1995 Parliamentary election under the leadership of Thaksin. Although he was elected from Bangkok, the party did not do well. It later formed a coalition government with Chart Thai Party, led by Banharn Silpa-Archa. Shinawatra was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Bangkok traffic.
In August 1996, PDP pulled out of the coalition, which resulted in the fall of Banharn government. The parliament was dissolved. Later in the same year Thaksin Shinawatra left PDP with few other MPs. The following year, he served briefly as the Deputy Prime Minister under Chavalit Yongchaiyudh government.
In 1998, Thaksin co-formed Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party. Immediately he began to get ready for next election and started his campaign promising to generate economic growth, provide universal healthcare, debt moratorium for farmers, strict action against corruption etc.
When the next parliamentary election was held on January 6, 2001, TRT won handsomely by garnering 40.6% votes. Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed the Prime Minister of Thailand by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on February 9, 2001.
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On April 3, 2001, National Counter Corruption Commission, which is an independent body, prosecuted him before the Constitutional Court for concealing his assets. However, on August 3, 2001, he was acquitted by a vote of eight to seven.
By next year, Thaksin consolidated his position by absorbing Seritham Party. He also made arrangements with two other smaller parties. Now he had enough member in the parliament to work undeterred. He introduced a wide range of economic policies that alleviated rural poverty almost by half in four years.
In addition, Thaksin launched the country's first universal healthcare program and declared war on drugs. He also took a massive program on infrastructure investment. When tsunami struck in 2004, he provided instant relief. His was the first civilian government to compete its full term.
In the 2005 general election TRT won an unprecedented landslide victory and formed government on its own. Thaksin Shinawatra became the Prime Minister for the second term.
In 2006, he sold his ‘Shin Corporation’ for $2 billion to a foreign company. The deal was exempted from capital gains tax. Besides, the law of the land forbade sale of national utility company to foreign buyers. Thaksin had amended the law to allow the sale.
As result, spontaneous protests erupted in the different parts of the country. Allegations of corruption, authoritarianism and muzzling of press were also labeled against Thaksin Shinawatra.
Faced with such protests, Thaksin Shinawatra dissolved the parliament on February 2006 and called for new election in April. As the major political parties boycotted the election TRT won once again. The Supreme Court declared the results invalid.
As a result of the court verdict, Thaksin Shinawatra did not take charge, but remained as the interim head. He then called for new election in October.
In September, he along with his family went to New York to attend the United Nation summit and to speak at the Council on Foreign Relation. On September 19, 2006 a military coup place in Thailand and ousted him from power. From then on, he has been living in exile.
Thaksin Shinawatra first went to Britain, where some members of his families lived. He applied for asylum there, but was refused. For a brief period, he traveled from country to country and finally acquired the citizenship of Montenegro through its economic citizenship program.
To be eligible for the citizenship, Thaksin has said to have invested to the tune of millions of dollars in tourism sector of the country. However, after the citizenship was granted, he began to spend a lot of time in London and Dubai.
Meanwhile, in June 2007, the government of Thailand froze Thaksin’s Thai assets on court order. They also banned TRT Party and debarred most of its leaders, including Thaksin, from taking part in election for five years.
In June 2008, Thaksin returned with his wife to Thailand to face corruption charges. However, they were out on bail and fled the country when his wife was convicted of tax evasion
In 2008, Thaksin was tried in absentia for corruption and was sentenced to two years of imprisonment. In 2010, the government seized his frozen assets amounting to $1.4 billion. In spite of such allegations, in November 2009, the Cambodian government appointed Thaksin as a special economic advisor.
Thaksin Shinawatra still has a strong following at home. In July 2011 general election, pro Thaksin Phak Puea Thai Party, headed by his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, won the majority of parliamentary seats. She was appointed the Prime Minister on July 3, 2011.