Thaksin Shinawatra became the first prime minister in Thailand’s history to lead an elected government through a full four-year term in office.In May 2007, Mr Thaksin and 110 other senior party officials were banned from political office for five years.
Eighteen months later he was out of office after a military coup ousted him as he prepared to give a speech in New York to the United Nations.
According to his opponents – who highlighted his intolerance of criticism and his failure to end separatist violence in the country’s south – his fall can be traced back to his family’s decision at the start of 2006 to sell its shares in one of Thailand’s biggest telecom groups, Shin Corp.
The sale, which netted family members and others $1.9bn, angered many urban Thais, who complained that the family avoided paying tax and passed control of an important national asset to Singaporean investors.
With calls mounting for him to resign over the issue and large-scale street protests, Mr Thaksin called a snap general election for April 2006, effectively telling opponents to “put up or shut up”.
But main opposition parties boycotted the polls and many voters chose to register a “no vote”. Several unopposed ruling party candidates failed to achieve the 20% of votes needed to become MPs, leaving parliament unable to convene.
Faced with the threat of further protests, Mr Thaksin said he would step down. He did for a few weeks, but returned to office in May ahead of a re-run of April’s elections later in the year.
Following months of political uncertainty, Thai army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin led a coup in September 2006 which stripped Mr Thaksin’s government of all powers.
Mr Thaksin has remained abroad since the coup, amid talk of arrest if he returned to Thailand. His family’s business dealings are now under investigation.
The Constitutional Tribunal also ordered Mr Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party to be dissolved after finding it guilty of violating electoral laws.
He had to face the fallout from his government’s suppression of news of an outbreak of bird flu, as well as continuing criticism over his methods of stamping out crime.
The violent deaths of more than 2,500 people during a crackdown on drugs ordered by Mr Thaksin in 2003 did not affect his public support, neither did an earlier finding by Thailand’s Corruption Commission that he had failed to declare all of his wealth.
He even weathered criticism over the government’s handling of the upsurge in violence in the largely Muslim south, where more than 2,000 people have died since an insurgency began in early 2004.
Each time Mr Thaksin appeared to ride out the storm, his backing among his key supporters – Thailand’s rural voters – apparently unscathed.
But the sale of Shin Corp fuelled an already active opposition, creating a political storm that proved Mr Thaksin’s undoing.
From BBC News