By Daniel Ten Kate
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) — Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, facing jail time for a corruption conviction in Thailand, unveiled a new foundation and research group designed “to stimulate development” in Asia.
With offices in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, the Building a Better Future Foundation seeks to “nurture the next generation of Asia’s business and financial leaders” and help draft development policy, Thaksin wrote in an open letter posted on the organization’s Web site.
The foundation, which took out half-page advertisements in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal today, was launched by Thaksin a month after he was sentenced to two years in prison for helping his wife buy land from the government while he served as prime minister. The couple divorced last week after the U.K. revoked their visas.
Creating the foundation is part of Thaksin’s attempt counter his enemies’ portrayal of him as a corrupt politician, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute for Strategic and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Thaksin has vowed to rally his supporters while he seeks to recoup the $2.2 billion of his money frozen by Thai authorities after the 2006 coup that ousted him.
“This is a concerted campaign from abroad and within Thailand to fight back politically,” Thitinan said by phone today. “Thaksin gives his opponents a perfect diversion from confronting Thailand’s real problems that he exposed.”
Thaksin’s Support Base
Thaksin won two elections on heavy support from the northeast, Thailand’s poorest region that holds a third of its 66 million people. His allies campaigned on his policies of cheap health care and microcredit to win the first election since the coup 11 months ago.
The People’s Alliance for Democracy, a mostly middle-class group that rallied against Thaksin before the coup, began a campaign to oust the ruling People Power Party in May. The group accuses the government of serving Thaksin’s interests and wants a new political system that dilutes his rural voting base.
Thaksin, 59, faces four other corruption-related charges from a military-appointed investigative body stemming from his five years as prime minister. He has called the cases against him “politically driven” and orchestrated by “privileged elites who believe in anything but democracy.”
Pongthep Thepkanjana, a Bangkok-based spokesman for Thaksin, said he had no information on the foundation.