Recently I gave a lecture to a Thai Studies class here at the ANU where I introduced some old photos of Thaksin Shinawatra. They show him on the stage at an anti-drugs rally in Chiang Rai province back in August 2006, a month before the coup. Thaksin and his lieutenants, as befits the era, are wearing yellow (see above).
More generally, I have never been entirely convinced by the assertion that Thaksin is anti-royal or that his preference is to go toe-to-toe with the “institution”. My working theory has been that whatever the public bluster, behind it all there is a deal-maker looking for a way forward.
In August 2012 I briefly touched on this theme:
Radical shifts in allegiance have happened before in Thai politics and they will happen again. Far from being a republican trouble-maker, Thaksin may ultimately prove a key ally for the palace in any future crisis. His capacity for personal reinvention is legendary, and this means that as he and the palace both face the challenges of the years ahead they may find that a common cause can guarantee mutual survival.
Thaksin has a track record of indestructibility. It makes sense that in the difficult years to come the palace will want him on their side.
That stanza might slightly over-state my current thinking, but it carries much of the sense that I guess is required.
It still seems likely that behind all of the street-level fuss there are other arrangements that the contentious reconciliation bill helps to support. Could this be an alignment of Thaksin and some element of the palace? Is that what Prime Minister Yingluck’s talk of “forgiveness” implies? What do New Mandala readers think?