By Agence France-Presse
Billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday hit out at Thailand’s ruling junta, saying coups targeting his family have made the country worse off over the past 12 years.
His comments are among the most pointed criticism for some time and come days after the junta eased bans on political activities before a promised election next year.
The Shinawatra clan — a wealthy and powerful family — has won every election since 2001 through populist platforms and welfare schemes that have angered Bangkok’s military-aligned elite.
Thailand’s modern history has been marked by attempted and successful coups. But the era since the putsch that toppled Thaksin in 2006 has been dubbed the “Lost Decade”, with street protests and instability a feature of political life.
Another coup in 2014 toppled a civilian government headed by Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck, who fled the country.
Military leaders have argued that taking control has been necessary to restore stability.
But in a Facebook post at times emotional and accusatory, the exiled former leader looked back over the turbulent period and asked Thais whether they were really better off in education, health care and the economy. He accused a small fraction of benefiting from the power shifts.
“There are some people who got rich from these two coups but there are several areas which have gotten worse and our beloved Thailand has been been viewed unfavourably by people around the world,” the 69-year-old said on the eve of the anniversary of his ousting.
“Hasn’t our country suffered enough?”
More than 2.6 million people follow Thaksin’s official Facebook page and that post quickly went viral, racking up thousands of likes, shares and supportive comments.
“No jobs, no money,” said Facebook user Thawat Thanmunkongkul.
“The country needs people with good management to push Thailand to prosperity. Our country is now suffering.”
Both Thaksin and Yingluck live in self-exile to avoid court cases they say are politically motivated.
But they have been amping up their social media presence in recent months as the country edges closer to an election expected as early as February.
On Friday the junta eased a longstanding ban on political activities, allowing parties to meet and recruit members. But on-the-ground campaigning remains off limits.
Pheu Thai, the party associated with the Shinawatras, called for all the conditions to be lifted “immediately” in a statement Tuesday.
But analysts say that even if the election goes ahead a return to full-fledged democracy is remote, as the constitution written by the junta calls for an upper house whose members are appointed.
The current prime minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha has also been raising speculation of a political run with a spate of public appearances and photo ops. (AFP)