By the editors
Tomorrow, World Policy Institute will host Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition created by the Network of Thais Overseas requesting that World Policy Journal’s parent organization cancel this event. They say by giving him a platform we are supporting a corrupt politician.
Thaksin, a billionaire telecom tycoon in self-imposed exile since his ouster a decade ago, has chosen to return to the limelight after more than two years of public silence. In the last few months, he has self-published a calendar and coffee-table book, and distributed them to thousands of his supporters abroad and in Thailand. He’s openly criticized the ruling military government and the recent draft of a proposed constitution, a charter that would restrict the power of political parties.
Even (or maybe especially) his harshest opponents recognize Thaksin’s outsized role in Southeast Asia. Parties that support Thaksin have won every Thai election since 2001, and in 2014, the military removed his sister, Yingluck, from office. Periodically—in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2014—tens of thousands of protesters filled Bangkok’s streets, sometimes in support of Thaksin and other times to rally against him. But his image was always at the center of the demonstrations—sometimes worn proudly on red T-shirts and other times burned in effigy.
As part of his re-emergence into a public role, he's agreed to speak to the World Policy Institute. World Policy Journal will be attending the event. With an ailing and beloved king on the throne in Thailand, what Thaksin has to say at this juncture is newsworthy and could provide insights into one of the most influential individuals in modern Thai history. Plus, his speech will be on the record, so we’ll be able to report back what he said. This is not a secret meeting between shadowy elites, but, rather, a chance to hear from and interrogate a figure of global importance.
World Policy Journal has also scheduled an interview with the former prime minister. In that conversation, we will not shy away from subjects mentioned in the petition. Thaksin's violent campaign to end drug trafficking, corruption charges against his sister regarding a rice subsidy scheme, and conflicts of interest between his business and state tenders are all fair game. As journalists, we at WPJ are stubbornly independent and will remain so sitting across from a former prime minister, just as we were when we interviewed people as diverse as Rwandan President Paul Kagame, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the World Bank’s chief economist Justin Yifu Lin.
[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]