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Thailand’s Real Estate Mogul Srettha Thavisin Becomes PM, Former PM Thaksin Jailed After Returning

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Srettha Thavisin, a real estate magnate, received the support of Thailand’s parliament on Tuesday to take office as prime minister, putting an end to weeks of political gridlock and uncertainty.

On a day when Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire leader of the Pheu Thai Party, made a historic return to his home country after years as a fugitive in self-imposed exile, Srettha, who came to limelight only a few months ago, won the support of more than half of the legislature.

Former Sansiri president and political novice Srettha will be tasked with putting together a coalition that may be unstable and will include groups supported by the royalist military, which deposed the Pheu Thai administrations in 2006 and 2014 coups.

Thaksin returns

Former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, returned home on Tuesday for the first time in 15 years. He came back from self-exile to a Bangkok jail.

He escaped his country in 2008, two years after charges of corruption and disloyalty were made against him by the military. The military had overthrown him but he denied the charges. After he fled, Thaksin was jailed in absentia for the same charges.

After he returned to jail, his allies tried to form a government following months of political stalemate.

Before being led by police to the Supreme Court and then to a prison to serve an eight-year sentence, Thaksin briefly appeared with family members at a private jet terminal at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, with smiles and greeting hundreds of jubilant supporters.

Thaksin greeted the public with a traditional “wai” bow as he exited the airport while wearing a black suit, a red tie, and a yellow lapel pin with a royal emblem. He then kneeled in front of a portrait of the monarch and queen to show respect.

Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, whose three-year term as prime minister similarly ended in a coup, a criminal conviction, and self-exile, stated, “For the past 17 years, you felt isolated, lonely, troubled, and missing home but you persevered. I will be strong and persevere. I will look after myself even in a foreign land alone.” She posted her comments on Facebook along with the pictures of her hugging him on the plane, before he left Singapore.

Thaksin was transported to a Bangkok Remand Prison under strict security, where officials stated his health will be meticulously monitored owing to pre-existing conditions with his spine, heart, and lungs.

Paetongtarn, his youngest daughter, apologised to his followers for her father’s inability to meet them. Taking to Instagram, Paetongtarn wrote, “Thank you everyone for the warmth to my father, he is very grateful.” She also posted pictures of Thaksin’s “red shirt” supporters.

Political turmoil

The much-anticipated appearance of Thailand’s most well-known politician happened when the lower house and Senate, which was appointed by the military, gathered before a vote on Srettha Thavisin, a real estate billionaire who Pheu Thai propelled into parliament only a few months before.

Since March, Thailand has been run by a caretaker government. The country’s new parliament has been impasse for weeks as a result of conservative legislators blocking Move Forward, the anti-establishment candidate who won the election in May. Pheu Thai, a political heavyweight, is now leading the new initiative.

Pheu Thai, founded by Thaksin and winner of five elections in the past 20 years, has formed a problematic coalition with parties supported by the military, which staged coups against Thaksin and Yingluck in 2006 and 2014.

The election for prime minister is almost certainly going to be overshadowed by Thaksin’s return, who is equally adored and despised throughout Thailand. At the airport, the court, and outside the prison, large crowds of red-shirted supporters carrying banners came to welcome him.

Thaksin, a former police officer who is now a telecom magnate and the owner of an English Premier League football club, captured the hearts of millions of working-class Thais with populist freebies like cash handouts, village loans, farm subsidies, and free healthcare.

However, his popularity and his backing for a new generation of capitalist upstarts set him at odds with a group of royalists, military families, and old-money families, sparking an impasse that is still in progress.

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