Thailand, Political Unrest, and Soccer

As you may have heard, things aren’t going so well in Thailand these days. What’s notable is that the man at the center of the upheaval, exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, has strong ties to soccer.

After Thanksin was deposed in a 2006 coup, he regrouped and purchased the Manchester City football club–after previously trying to buy Liverpool and Fulham. The purchase was widely seen as an effort to curry favor back in Thailand:

“This is all public relations. He fears he is losing his political power and he is fighting back,” said Wanchai Rujawongsanti, a sports columnist with the Bangkok Post.

“He wants his job back and he’s using Thailand’s love of football to maintain his high profile here,” he said.

Indeed, Thaksin pumped money into his club and revamped Manchester City’s player-development network. However, after his assets were frozen back in Thailand because of corruption charges, Thaksin was forced to sell the team to a Dubai consortium.

Now, Thaksin is being scrutinized for his role in the violent protests back in his native country. Is he pulling the marionette strings from afar? Considering the bloodshed and economic fallout, Thaksin’s role in the counter-coup will likely have consequences.

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