A British Gift To Thaksin On The Third Anniversary of The Coup 
( Last edit 2009-09-19 )
Man City bosses expose Thaksin 'failings'
By Agence France-Presse, September 19, 2009
Senior figures at Manchester City have publicly rounded on the club's former owner, Thai ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in comments reported by Britain's Guardian newspaper Saturday.
Garry Cook, the club's executive chairman, said he "deeply regretted my failure to do proper research on Thaksin", while manager Mark Hughes admitted he made "too many assumptions" before joining from Blackburn Rovers last year.
It is three years since Thaksin, who is now living in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, was toppled by the military in Thailand and had 2.2 billion dollars of funds frozen soon afterwards.
Hughes, Cook and others including midfielder Stephen Ireland said a lack of cash under Thaksin meant Manchester City was well short of having the resources needed to make the club big hitters in the Premiership.
"I made too many assumptions," Hughes told the Guardian. "I assumed that people and facilities would be top quality and it was patently obvious they weren't."
Cook admitted that the atmosphere at Eastlands was like a "lion's den".
"Thaksin's money was locked away," he said. "We got into a position where we couldn't pay the players and (ex-chairman) John Wardle was asked to lend the club two million pounds (2.2 million euros, 3.3 million dollars)."
Ireland added: "It was mad that somebody like that... could own our football club".
Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the club's current chairman, said the situation the new owner, Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, inherited was "simply unacceptable" and forced quick action to make basic improvements to, for example, the club's gym.
Looking Back At What Thaksin Looked Like Two Years Before Profile: Thaksin Shinawatra, Football's New City Slicker in Mid 2007
By Tim Lewis in The Observer/Guardian, Sunday 12 August 2007
The deposed Prime Minister of Thailand has been compared with Pol Pot, but to the blue half of Manchester, he is 'Frank', the man with the financial clout to put them on a par with their more illustrious local rivals
How much do you love your football team? If you are not 'lucky' enough to support Manchester United or Chelsea, what would you sacrifice to have a fraction of their success? It is this Faustian dilemma that may have been preoccupying the long-suffering fans of Manchester City since their club was sold to Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed Prime Minister of Thailand, for ?81.6m in early July. Thaksin, who has been compared in his homeland with Hitler, Pol Pot and Aids, has received a wary but convivial reception in the blue half of Manchester.
As City began the season against West Ham yesterday with a 2-0 win and with Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge of a scarcely recognisable team of new Spanish, Italian and Brazilian players, there was even guarded talk among the fans of a first trophy for the club in 32 years.
Mohamed al Fayed bought Fulham in 1997, but the foreign ownership of Premier League clubs really kicked off when Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea for ?150m in June 2003. Now nine out of 20 clubs in the division are foreign-owned and it is likely that more (perhaps Arsenal or Everton) will be sold during the next year.
In some respects, Thaksin, who was overthrown by the Council for National Security (CNS) military junta in a bloodless coup last September, is a natural addition to these ranks.
A charismatic individual and natural self-publicist, he is sure to enjoy the prestige of club ownership, a must-have for any self-respecting itinerant billionaire these days. Even with assets of almost ?1bn frozen in Thailand, he is said to enjoy a flamboyant lifestyle in England, where he now lives in exile with his wife and three grown-up children. His main residence is a five-bedroom, ?4.5m mansion in Weybridge, Surrey, and he also has a serviced apartment in central London, where he answers to 'Your Excellency'.
He eats at ritzy restaurants such as Royal China and Patara and maintains a 'not too short' hairstyle at Toni & Guy. One of his favourite activities is karaoke, which he does with Sarunrat Visutthithada, better known as Lydia, so-called queen of Thai R&B.
In other ways, the emergence of Thaksin is an astonishing and, some would say, landmark development. Human-rights organisations are incredulous that he has passed the Premier League's fit and proper persons test (although the Premier League points out that he has not been convicted of anything) - Thaksin is due in court next week in Bangkok to answer charges of abusing his position to boost his family's financial interests.
To many, the way he has been embraced is evidence that England's national game has sold its soul. 'The Football Association's failure to investigate properly the background of the foreign nationals buying top clubs or their growing influence on the sport heralds the end of the Premier League as an English institution,' wrote Tom Bower in the August issue of The Observer Sport Monthly
However, while there has been some criticism of Thaksin in the press, notably from Manchester City fans such as Simon Hattenstone in the Guardian and Bill Borrows in the September issue of Esquire, there has been nothing approaching the outpouring of anguish and violence that accompanied the sale of Manchester United to Malcolm Glazer in 2005. Borrows may not be renewing his season ticket after more than three decades of loyal support, but the reality is that the majority of the club's supporters are more sanguine, even adopting a cute nickname for their new owner, 'Frank' Shinawatra (it's pronounced 'Chin-a-wat', but never mind).
If the comments on the Manchester Evening News message board are representative, 90 per cent of fans are behind Thaksin and most are more concerned about goalkeeping cover for the new season than the government-endorsed 'war on drugs' that saw in excess of 2,275 people killed in Thailand during a three-month period in 2003. 'Life being a City fan does not get better than this,' says Stretfordblue; 'So far, it's all a bit of a fairytale,' says another post.
A rare dissenting voice comes from someone who signs off as Erik Young, UN Human Rights Ambassador: 'Thaksin Shinawatra's other name is not Frank Sinatra, it is Satan. In fact, Shinawatra was born on 26 July. That was the same day Satan disappeared from Hell. Nostradamus predicted he would appear somewhere around southern China.' In the current climate, though, such criticism receives short shrift. 'Billy no mates, do one,' replies the next post.
There is something idiosyncratic, almost wilful, about the supporters of Manchester City. The old joke is that City fans come from Manchester and United fans are from Dubai, but it goes deeper than that. 'City supporters are perversely loyal,' says Bill Borrows. 'One year, after we'd been relegated, the average attendance actually increased. The further we got away from the dishonesty at the top, the more fans were attracted back to the purity of the beautiful game.'
Many supporters see themselves as the absolute counterpoint to one of the most successful clubs in the world, just across the city. When Nick Leeson went to prison for losing ?827m, he wore a Manchester City shirt. As he said at the time: 'To declare oneself a Blue seemed rather to take the edge off [the crime].'
It is not hard to see what attracted Thaksin, a serial entrepreneur before entering politics in the mid-Nineties, to English football. The Premier League is an astute and lucrative investment - as a guideline, Abramovich's original stake in Chelsea is now worth more than ?500m - and after unsuccessful negotiations for Fulham and Liverpool, the 58-year-old Thai turned his attention to City. The club has the 17th highest income in world football, according to accountancy firm Deloitte, but - all their fans agree - was in a wretched position, stagnant with chronic debt, when he stepped in.
A further incentive for Thaksin would have been the profile that his new post would give him. Although the former Prime Minister has announced his retirement from politics, he never says it with much conviction. The CNS claims he is desperate to stay in the spotlight in Thailand, where many worship English football like a second religion.
While it is difficult to ascertain Thaksin's affection for football (officially his game is golf - he is the president of the Thailand PGA), it's easy to imagine him soaking up the adoration he will receive at the City of Manchester Stadium when United visit next Sunday. He has set out a three-year plan for his new club: a top-10 finish this season, qualification for Europe in the second year and silverware by 2010. It seems reasonable, even sensible, coming from a man whose personal motto is: better to die than live like a loser. 'To those people who say that I will not be here for a long time,' Thaksin counters, 'I say that I have been joking to my friends that we have a 250-year contract for the stadium and no one should bother negotiating an extension because I will do it in my next life.'
Manchester City fans may be reassured by Thaksin's long-term commitment, but for many others, his involvement fatally compromises the sport and pushes the Premier League ever closer to implosion - the decline of Leeds United magnified on an unprecedented scale. However, there are several inconsistencies with this interpretation, not least Thaksin's role within it.
The fact is that Thaksin's tenure as Prime Minister of Thailand was one of the most prosperous in the country's history and he still casts a long shadow over a nation where democracy is yet to be restored. More than 200,000 citizens attend pro-Thaksin rallies and if elections were held today, he would be a strong favourite, courtesy of loyal support from farmers in the north.
Despite his absence from the country, the CNS has been unable to entirely tarnish the former leader's reputation and Tuesday's court case is primarily procedural, like trying Al Capone for income-tax evasion, you might say. Even the claims from human-rights organisations regarding his violent treatment of drug traffickers have not been officially sanctioned.
Thaksin may be controversial, but he is certainly not the only dubious individual running a Premier League club. And, as for football in England, it will continue being in crisis - that is, stratospherically profitable, envied around the globe and featuring many of the world's finest players in state-of-the-art stadiums. The reality is that the majority of football fans are desperate for the club they love to be bought by an international tycoon with millions to spend on flashy players and facilities. They don't particularly care where that money comes from and, in a sense, why should they? Everyone else is doing it and, besides, regulation should be the jurisdiction of the FA and the government (a responsibility that both seem keen to duck at the moment).
If City win the Manchester derby next weekend, you will certainly hear little criticism of 'Frank' from the fans. You can almost hear the singing now: 'Regrets? I've had a few ...'
The Thaksin lowdown
Born 26 July 1949 in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to a wealthy family. After leaving school, Thaksin joined the police before resuming studies in the US. Married Potjaman Damapong in 1980. The couple have three children.
Best of times The only elected Prime Minister in Thai history to serve a full term, he was returned with a landslide in 2005. His economic policies ('Thaksinomics') are credited with drastically reducing poverty in five years.
Worst of times While at the UN in New York, he was deposed by a military junta. His assets were frozen and his political party, Thai Rak Thai, was forcibly disbanded. He says he will not return to Thailand until democracy is restored.
What he says 'I was a democratically elected leader ousted by military coup, so I know the British people, as a mature democracy, understand my position. I am still very popular in Thailand and the military are trying to justify why they have overthrown me. There is no evidence that I violated human rights.'
What others say 'If the UK government tells us that there is no problem, then I don't think it is for us to go around second-guessing. If they tell us that X or Y or Z is not suitable to have investment in this country, then they would stop the flow of money and we would work with them on that basis.' Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive