Thaksin Shinawatra (Thai pronunciation: ; born 26 July 1949) is a Thai businessman and politician, who was Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006, when he was overthrown in a military coup.
Thaksin founded Advanced Info Service, Thailand's most successful mobile phone operator, and became a billionaire. Thaksin entered politics in 1994 under Phalang Dharma Party, left the party along with many of its MPs in 1996, and founded the populist Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998. After a historic election victory in 2001, he became prime minister, the country's first to serve a full term. Thaksin introduced a range of policies to alleviate rural poverty; highly popular, they helped reduce poverty by half in four years. He launched the country's first universal healthcare program, the 30-baht scheme, as well as a highly popular drug suppression campaign. Thaksin embarked on a massive program of infrastructure investment, including roads, public transit, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Nevertheless, public sector debt fell from 57% of GDP in January 2001 to 41% in September 2006. Levels of corruption were perceived to have fallen, with Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index improving from 3.2 to 3.8 between 2001 and 2005. The Thai Rak Thai party won an unprecedented landslide in the 2005 general election, which had the highest voter turnout in Thai history.
The Shinawatra government faced allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, treason, conflicts of interest, acting non-diplomatically, and muzzling of the press. Thaksin was accused of tax evasion, lèse majesté (insulting King Bhumibol, and selling assets of Thai companies to international investors. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, criticized Thaksin's human rights record. Thaksin was also pressed charged for concealing his wealth during his premier.