BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra landed this Thursday morning on flight Thai Airways flight 603 from Hong Kong to be greeted by thousands of cheering well wishers and fans camped out at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Kissing the ground on his arrival, he was met by excited crowds in carnival like mood, jubilant on his return following the coup by military generals that ousted him on the 19th September 2006. Until the December 2007 general election, the country was ruled by a military dictatorship, known as the Council for National Security (CNS) that was largely felt to be ineffective and cost the country billions in lost trade.
Following his arrival, he drove to the criminal court to present himself to face corruption charges linked to land purchased by his wife, Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra. He was immediately released on bail of Baht 8 million (US$250,000).
Having recently been given back his life long red diplomatic passport, a tradition afforded all former prime ministers, Thaksin was able to travel safely back to Thailand after 17 months of self exile in Hong Kong and the UK. On arrival, he declared to waiting journalist that he wanted to be able to hug his wife and children and live an “ordinary life.”
Local tourism industry experts are predicting that what ever the political repercussions maybe with Thaksin’s return, it will have little impact on Thailand’s tourism industry.
Arrivals to Thailand are expected to rise to 15.8 million in 2008, a 9 percent increase on last year. This follows democratic elections on December 23, 2007, which brought to power a coalition government under a new prime minister, Mr. Samak Sundaravej, putting to an end the unelected CNS.