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WEB-ONLY EXCLUSIVE
Will Thai Billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra Take Center Stage?
By ROBERT HORN

November 18, 2000
Web posted at 8:25 p.m. Hong Kong time, 7:25 a.m. EDT



ALSO
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The world's number one golfer remains just that after winning the Johnnie Walker Classic
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A meeting with the world's most famous golfer leaves over 200 fans starstruck
Mobile Phones Frustrate Razor Sharp Tiger Woods: Day two of Thailand's Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament
Tiger Woods Gets Unwelcome Homecoming in Thailand: The world's number one golfer is chasing his 10th victory this year -- but is copping some flak

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The world's number one golfer is chasing his 10th victory this year -- but is copping some flak

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A profile of the Indian political legend Jyoti Basu

While golf fans are wondering who will win the Johnnie Walker Classic, Thais are also wondering who will present the trophy to the victor on Sunday at the Alpine Golf and Sports Club in Bangkok.

Will it be Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire telecoms tycoon and leading candidate for the country's prime ministership in elections on Jan. 6? The Alpine, according to Thaksin, is his club, and he has hosted parties there to woo the local press in his bid to win at the polls. Or will the presenters be Chairat Chiangpruek, Boonchu Rienpradab and Wichai Changlek? If you have no idea who those last three people are, they're Thaksin's security guard, maid and driver, respectively, and, according to public records, they and not Thaksin are the owners of the private country club.

Thailand's National Counter Corruption Commission is currently investigating Thaksin for allegedly concealing his assets during his last stint as a Deputy Prime Minister in 1997. If the commission finds him guilty, he will be banned from politics for five years and his hopes of becoming Prime Minister will be over.

While golfer Tiger Woods was driving his way to the top of the leaderboard on Friday, Thaksin was meeting with members of the commission. They're keen to know why Thaksin's household staff, and not Thaksin, hold shares worth millions of dollars in 17 companies that seem to be owned and run by Thailand's king of mobile phones.

So what will Thaksin do? The golf tournament is being held in Thailand this year because the billionaire had the largesse to outbid other clubs around Asia. Can he resist showing up and presenting himself as the man who brought Tiger to Thailand? If he does turn up, he'll be thumbing his nose at the very investigators who could end his political career.

It's almost more interesting than who'll win the tournament.

Features Home | TIME Asia home

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