Thai Opposition Warns of Dictatorship in Thailand
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Thai Opposition Warns of Dictatorship in Thailand


By Denis D. Gray/AP Writer/Bangkok Saturday, February 5, 2005


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Though never losing mass support and buttressed by a robust economy, Thaksin came under fire last year for alleged cronyism, inept handling of a bird flu epidemic and failing to curb sectarian violence in the Muslim-dominated south that has taken hundreds of lives.

 

Critics also continue to hammer away at his abuses of human rights, suppression of the media and emasculation of other democratic institutions that could oppose his policies.

 

His populist policies and high-handed style scare Thai intellectuals but are admired by ordinary voters, who want strong leadership.

 

“Being aggressive, strong, is good, so the country will be strong,” said Chanchari Chuapanyawin, a small company owner.

 

His strengths were underscored, to his political advantage, by his quick and forceful reaction to the December 26 tsunami which devastated parts of southern Thailand.

 

The 55-year-old Thaksin likes to project himself as a self-made man who can slice through the country’s sluggish bureaucracy with a modern CEO style. He often points to the success of his telecommunications empire, which has made his family among the richest in Thailand.

 

The US-educated prime minister also has ambitions as a regional leader, although his handling of the Islamic rebellion recently soured Thai relations with neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation.



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