It seems that Thaksin the Educator – a man reviled at home as a virtual political anti-Christ – has become something of a star celebrity everywhere else but in Thailand. This appears to be especially true among university students, by nature intellectually curious and open-minded.
Fresh off of his recent appearance before students, faculty and administrators at Loyola Marymount University here in Los Angeles, Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as elected prime minister in a 2006 military coup, popped up at Cambridge University in England. This must have surprised a lot of Thais back home.
The energetic populist politician was invited by for a talk entitled “ASEAN Integration and Thailand in the 21st Century.” More than 200 students attended, amid a dollop of predictable and indeed delightful controversy. (His LMU appearance, back in August, was viewed by all involved as an exceptional and worthwhile event.)
At prestigious Cambridge, his high-profile appearance was rated by at least one student blogger as a huge success. He wrote: “The event attracted more than 200 attendees across the University. Prior to the event, controversy was ignited among Thai students when one of them advertised the talk on the Cambridge University Thai Society’s Facebook webpage. Some of those attending didn’t want to appear attending. Some had to justify that by attending ….”
He continued: “Thaksin arrived more than half an hour late but the lecture theater was still full. He apologized and congratulated the audience for being students in one of the best universities in the world before beginning to talk about his experiences and lessons he learned.”
The Cambridge students roared in appreciation over one line in particular: Said Thaksin, “Because I was a strong leader, the elites don’t like me. They set a coup to kick me out. Then they changed the constitution to be more dictatorial.”
Back in Bangkok a Thaksin supporter said this about the former PM’s unforgiving opponents: “… They are so blind and fanatical in their way of thinking and understanding the world around them……….They’re a bit like the Taliban, only nicer suits and way better food………
For more details of the talk, see: http://onboardphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/thaksin-cambridge/
For more on Thaksin’s views, in his own words, see: