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What Thaksin brings back to Thailand
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Although Thaksin Shinawatra pledged to stay out of politics after returning to Thailand, he is still expected to leave a distinct color mark on the country's future political picture, at least for a while.

Opposition camps have feared a political comeback of Thaksin and a possible revenge by what they claimed the "old power clique", who were forced to retreat into the backstage or a new shelter like the People Power Party (PPP), after military top brass toppled the Thaksin administration in a bloodless coup on September 19,2006.

They already deemed the victory of PPP, which groups lots of members of the Thaksin-founded former ruling party Thai Rak Thai, in the post-coup December 23 general election as a signal of resurrection of the former administration.

Supporters, on the other side, has hailed the PPP's seizure of power as they believed it will bring back their beloved leader – Thaksin.

The PPP has formed a coalition government with five other smaller parties in early February, and announced its policy platform which has carried on much of the populist heritage of the ousted Thaksin administration, among them the 30-baht universal health care, One Tambon (sub-district) One Product (OTOP), Village Fund to promote development of rural enterprises and cheap housing for urban low incomers etc.

Thaksin played no magic when his government's populist policies, dubbed Thaksinomics, benefited the rural and urban poor, and the Thai economy showed positive growth during early years of his administration during 2001-2005 before disrupted by political turmoil.

Until now the only thing the supporters know for sure about Thaksin is that they were better off during the years of Thaksin's administration.

Thai economy has been stagnant in the last two years, challenged by political instability, a surging currency, fiercer export competition from rising economies in the region, US economic slowdown and global oil price hike.

When the military drove tanks into the capital to topple the Thaksin government on the evening of Septeber 19, 2006, a phenomenon absent from Thai political history for 18 years, they called it a resolution to resolve political crisis and social division settled in country, which they attributed to Thaksin's dictatorial and corrupt administration.

However, the division did not disappear as the junta-appointed interim government did not offer any effective recipe for economic improvement or political stability during one-year's term.

Insurgent violence has been on the rise in the deep south. Even among the anti-Thaksin camps, trust fell apart between the military, the interim government and the civil anti-Thaksin movement People's Alliance of Democracy, which staged mass street protests in Bangkok to catalyze the anti-Thaksin sentiment which culminated in the September 19 coup.

In addition, his return at this moment will be a boost for the morale of PPP, which faces a possible dissolution if House Speaker and former PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat was convicted by the Supreme Court of vote-buying in the December election after the Election Commission (EC) resolved to charge him in the Supreme Court.

A politics professor in the Chulalongkorn University Thitinan Pongsudhirak said in the English newspaper Bangkok Post that Thaksin might use his clout and resilient popularity to pressure the judicial system to avoid a replay of the fate of the former TRT party, which was dissolved by the Constitutional Court last May on electoral fraud charges.

He also expected Thaksin to help contain the infighting within the PPP, now led by new Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, and between PPP and other parties in the coalition government.

Also urgent is clearing his own name in face of various corruption and abuse of power charges, which could devastate his political expectation of any kind, or even his claimed wish to "live a peaceful life as normal citizen for the rest of his life" in his homeland.

Thitinan predicted: "a replay of Thaksin and his allies versus the judicial system appears in the offing."

(Xinhua News Agency February 29, 2008)

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