The Thaksin Shinawatra Group: A Study of the Relationship between Money and Politics in Thailand


  • Ukrist Pathmanand Asian Research Centre



Thaksin Shinawatra is a successful Thai business tycoon who has become extremely wealthy within the last fifteen years from investment in telecommunications and lately also in mass-transit infrastructure. He entered politics in the mid-1990s and became a party leader and minister in several governments. Through a study of Thaksin's business career and his political involvement I intend to illustrate how Thai politics functions in practice, as well as to highlight the intimate links between money and politics in Thailand, particularly in the telecommunications sector. During the economic boom the telecommunications sector was characterised by substantial profits and stiff competition, but after the economic crisis in July 1997 the Thai telecoms firms sustained heavy losses. In a surprise move the two biggest telecommunications conglomerates-Shinawatra and Charoen Phokapand-announced that they would merge some of their telecommunications firms, thereby creating one of the biggest concentrations of assets in Thailand and at the same time a de fact0 monopolisation of tlie telecommunications market. As if that were not enough, Shinawatra, together with his former arch-rival, has launched a new political party-Thai Rak Thai [Thai loves Thai]. This move may have profound implications for the development of Thai politics.'