Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin boosts Blues profile

Chris Osuh
1/ 9/2007

THAKSIN Shinawatra’s investment in the Blues has put the city on the map for his countrymen.

There are thought to be around 17,000 Thais living in the country – and more are expected to head for Manchester now the former Prime Minister has boosted their profile here.

Manchester City Football Club was relatively unknown in Thailand until the man known as `Mr Thaksin’ – or `Frank’ snapped it up.

But now the club is as famous in Thailand as Manchester United and Chelsea FC – whose cupboards of silverware and foreign tours have won armies of fans in the Far East.

Despite this, football fans in Bangkok and beyond are unlikely to flaunt Blue leanings.

Anyone wearing a replica Blues’ shirt in Thailand could be marked out as a Thaksin supporter – an unwise move under the military regime which seized power last September.

However, Thais living in Manchester, many of them a stone’s throw from City’s stadium, have no such concerns.

Sawitree Prayoonhan, 25, of Beswick said: “Even though I don’t like football I went to the Man City match against Derby FC because of the Thaksin connection. I was pleased to see other Thais at the game too. Thaksin buying Manchester City has been good for Thai people everywhere – but we hope the money hasn’t come from taxes.

“There are thousands of us in the city, many in east Manchester, and I expect the numbers will grow because Manchester is now more popular in Thailand.”

Dangerous
She added: “My brother who lives in Thailand didn’t know of Manchester City before, but now he likes them. He would not wear a shirt though because it would be dangerous for him.”

“Fewer people in Thailand like Thaksin, or will say they like Thaksin, than they do here. Here most people like Thaksin, because they remember him helping the poor people.

“But people in Thailand may not like Thaksin any more because over there they only show the bad news about him. Still, no-one is perfect, every government has corruption.”

Thaksin, who made his fortune in telecommunications, bought Manchester City Football Club for £120m. Since June almost £1bn of funds in family bank accounts has been frozen by the new government.

A warrant has been issued for his arrest by the Thai supreme court for corruption and abuse-of-power charges stemming from his time in office, while international observers have accused him on human rights abuses, which he has denied.

Sawitree and fellow workers from Chinatown’s Pacific restaurant took a break from work to go to the free concert the soccer chairman threw at Albert Square three weeks ago.

They were delighted to see Thai pop star Mai Charoenpura in the city. And although they missed the big moment because they went back to work, they were not surprised to learn from the MEN that Thaksin performed Blue Moon to 8,000 fans.

Sawitree said: “Thaksin is quite a friendly person. When he became prime minister he remained the same person he was before. He has a lot of character.”

Narissara Promboon, 46, of Openshaw, told the MEN the former premier’s takeover had brought honour to his countrymen. She said: “The Thai people here are very proud, he has made us more known here. We would like to see more top Thais buying clubs.”

Samarn Sarnkhet, 50, of Beswick, is another Blue convert. He said: “I like football and used to watch clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U, who have always been the most popular clubs in Thailand. But now I support Man City – who I didn’t know about before. I watch them on TV and think will get better because they have a good team now. Thaksin will wake the sleeping giant.”

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