Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2015
During 2011 the unresolved legacies of recent political conflict continued to overshadow prospects for reconciliation in Thailand. The pivot for the current troubles is the coup of 19 September 2006 when the army leadership, in concert with palace insiders, deposed the electorally successful government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The coup was designed to dismantle the Thaksin juggernaut and eradicate his supposedly malign, even dictatorial, influence from national life. The worry, both then and now, is that Thaksin can disrupt the careful plans — economic, political, royal, etc. — of other factions among the country's elite. Thaksin, with his telecommunications fortune and unique track record of marshalling electoral support, has been portrayed as the enemy of national unity. Since the coup there have been more than five years of jousting between Thaksin and his allies, on the one hand, and senior members of the military, Privy Council, judiciary, and bureaucracy on the other. In 2011 the ghosts of the 2006 extra-constitutional intervention, and the ineptitude and violence that followed, returned to haunt the coup makers. With the 2011 election there is a final popular verdict on the coup and its aftermath. It is a bleak one for those who had worked towards Thaksin's downfall.
Remarkably, Thaksin has survived. With the Pheua Thai Party's resounding election victory on 3 July 2011, and its leadership of the country's new coalition government, his ignominious exile from Thailand, and from official political activities, may be coming to an end. All efforts to purge him have failed. By a large margin, Thaksin remains the most electorally successful politician in the country's history and the events of 2011 reinforce his singular claim to a popular mandate. With the triumph of his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin is once again in a decisive position. And while Yingluck is commonly described as a “political novice”, and many doubt her abilities, she has proved a very effective proxy for Thaksin and his brand of politics.
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