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Thaksin, President Arroyo, and other Filipino politicians

To me, Thaksin is a composite of three Filipino politicians: former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada (a former movie actor), and Senator (and 2010 presidential candidate) Manuel Villar, Jr. Arroyo shares Thaksin’s economic savvy.  Both also faced allegations of corruption, public disenchantment, and military unrest. Thaksin was not able to serve out his term unlike Arroyo, but in comparison to her, he remains a popular among the Thai masses years after being deposed. That’s something he shares with the charismatic Estrada. In his bid to regain the presidency last year, Estrada ranked 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Both Villar and Thaksin are self made billionaires, with Villar making it big in the real estate field. Both had been accused of using their political office to serve their business interests.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

He’s known to have a close relationship with Arroyo, who also assumed power in early 2001, just a few weeks ahead of him. Arroyo liked Thaksin’s economic policies (termed as “Thaksinomics”) so much that she proclaimed herself in 2003 as one of its “disciples” (as reported by Newsweek and Time magazine).   Thaksin believed that “access to capital, employment opportunities, and basic social services can transform disadvantaged regions into growth engines,” and this philosophy has been emulated by a number of Asian leaders, not just Arroyo.

 

When she sought her own term as president in 2004, one of her challengers, Senator Panfilo Lacson, vowed to be like Thaksin, who he described in a campaign ad as “buo ang loob (courageous), walang takot (fearless).” Both he and Thaksin are former cops known to crack down hard (to the point of excess) on criminals. Thaksin, however, received much criticism from Filipinos when he was quoted to have criticized the way 2005 SEA Games competitions (which the Philippines hosted that year) are being officiated. Arroyo gave Thaksin’s insinuations a semblance of credence when she ordered an official investigation into the matter instead of defending the Filipino athlete’s excellent performance.

 

The following year, the sale of Thaksin’s telecommunication conglomerate to a Singaporean firm (where he supposedly earned billions) triggered a political firestorm. After months of protests and much dillydallying on Thaksin’s side (on whether he will resign or not), the military launched a September 2006 coup that ultimately ousted him. Though Thaksin has been out of Thailand since then (except for a brief period in 2008), he remains a force to reckon with there. Within two years after the coup, two of his political allies served as prime minister, though they were both eventually forced out of office.

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