Ousted Thai leader used power to benefit businesses, critics say

03 Oct 2006

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) When fallen Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra endorsed a multimillion dollar government loan to Myanmar two years ago, it was billed as a chance to help the impoverished country finance construction and telecommunications projects using Thai suppliers.

What the billionaire tycoon neglected to mention was that the $97 million in low-interest assistance would also benefit Shin, a telecommunications conglomerate controlled by his family which already was doing business with Myanmar's military junta.

The Myanmar loan, critics said, was just one example of how Thaksin used his office during his five years in power to boost the fortunes of his media and telecommunications empire and enrich his family.

The allegations of massive corruption and abuse of power were a major factor in Thaksin's downfall, which came September 19 when senior army officers staged a coup while the prime minister attended a United Nations meeting in New York. He is now staying in London.

During his time in power, the Thaksin family's business empire grew so fast that investment experts told their clients that stocks yielding high profits were 'Thaksin stock.'

Helped by government concessions, Shin's stock soared 86% after he took office in 2001, although it has dropped recently.

'I have so many cases where Thaksin abused his position to give favors to companies related to his family,' said Somkiat Tangkitvanich, a researcher at the think tank Thailand Development Research Institute, who estimates that two-thirds of Shin's market capitalization in 2003 was a result of government connections.

© 2006 The Associated Press

© 2006 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved

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