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Thaksin hangs on to his job

Thaksin Shinawatra

Billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra kept his job as Thailand's prime minister, but only by the skin of his teeth and as a result of a split court judgement last month. An immediate political and constitutional crisis was thereby avoided - but only at the risk of buffeting the country's fragile political system and storing up trouble for later.

The fact that Thaksin is the first elected Thai political leader to enjoy an outright popular mandate added to a dramatic situation that kept the Thai press and public enthralled for months. That Thaksin stood before the constitutional court accused of making false declarations of assets meant the case challenged soap operas as a subject for popular discussion.

Much rested on the outcome. If Thaksin were found guilty, he would be banned from public office for five years. Would the court dare to challenge the verdict of the 11 million Thais who voted for him just last January? That was part of the challenge thrown down by the prime minister and his supporters.

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