After announcing his return 18 times, is Thaksin’s dream about to come true?
Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has announced his return to Thailand a total of 18 times since 2009.
Thaksin's government was ousted by a military coup led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin on September 19, 2006. After fleeing the country, he was sentenced in absentia to a total of 12 years in jail on charges of corruption, tax evasion and abuse of power.
He returned to Thailand on February 28, 2008, resulting in a viral photo when he knelt and touched his forehead to the ground at Suvarnabhumi Airport as his supporters cheered.
However, the Supreme Court Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions granted his request to leave to attend the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile ever since. He spends most of his time in Dubai.
He announced his return to Thailand for the first time during a video speech at a United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (red shirt) rally at Government House in Bangkok on March 30, 2009.
"When gunshots ring out and soldiers shoot people, I will immediately return to Bangkok to lead the people," he said.
The government led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in a coup led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha in 2014.
Thaksin made his seventh vow to return during a Care Clubhouse x Care Talk programme in January last year, giving four reasons:
- He wanted to help raise his grandchildren in the remaining years of his life.
- He was ready to help the government to solve problems – “free of charge”.
- He wanted to give lectures and asked for no more than an iced coffee as payment.
- He wanted wealthy Thais to support startups.
He made his 16th announcement during an interview with Japan’s Kyodo News on March 24 this year, declaring he would be willing to face legal action and jail if he could return to live with his family.
He also expressed confidence that Pheu Thai would win by a landslide in the May 14 election but added that he would not use the victory to seek a royal pardon.
Thaksin's 17th and 18th announcements turned up the heat in Thai politics in the weeks leading up to this Sunday’s election.
On May 1, just hours after his youngest daughter Paetongtarn had given birth to her second child, he tweeted: “As I will turn 74 this July, I want to ask for permission to return to look after my grandchild. See you soon.”
The baby boy has been named Prutthasin Sooksawas and nicknamed “Thasin”. He is Thaksin’s seventh grandchild.
Then, on Tuesday, Thaksin made his latest announcement: “I have decided I will come home to be with my [new] grandson this July, before my birthday. I have now been away from my family for almost 17 years. I’m getting old too.”