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Thaksin Shinawatra’s Heartfelt Homecoming to Chiang Mai: A Tradition, Loyalty, and Political Narrative Unfold

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Imagine a scene directly out of a movie where the prodigal son returns home after years away, amidst the scenic backdrop of Chiang Mai, the air filled with anticipation and excitement. This is no mere fiction, but the tale of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand, making his grand re-entry into his cherished homeland of Chiang Mai. On a voyage driven by tradition and family allegiance, Thaksin’s journey back to Chiang Mai, after a self-imposed exile stretching 17 long years, radiates a profound narrative of nostalgia and reunion. Accompanied by the clicking of cameras and the fervor of supporters eager for selfies, his arrival felt like the script of a blockbuster, with Thaksin playing the leading role.

Upon his parole — a concession granted owing to his advanced age of 74 and a litany of health woes — Thaksin openly vowed to make this pilgrimage to Chiang Mai an annual affair. A tradition, particularly during Songkran, to honor and pay respects to the spirits of his forebears. This pledge was made amidst the vibrant hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai on a Friday that will be etched in the memories of many, marking Thaksin’s first foray back to the province since his departure from the political stage and Thailand itself.

Escorted by a coterie that included his daughters, the leader of the Pheu Thai Party, Paetongtarn, and her sister, Pinthongta, Thaksin’s itinerary was a poignant trail across landmarks steeped in personal and communal history. Their journey commenced at the revered Khru Ba Sri Vichai monument, a testament to Thaksin’s roots and his connection to Chiang Mai’s spiritual landscape. This was not just a solo expedition. The former PM was buoyed by a contingent of top brass, vibrant local officials, and amidst the ambiance of reverence, thousands of locals vociferously declaring their affection for Thaksin.

Among the sentimental stops was the Doi Suthep Stupa, a site that, despite Thaksin’s ensuing back pain, couldn’t dampen his resolve. The collective spirit of the journey was palpable, with every step, every visit, resonating deeper than just a homecoming, serving as an evocative bridge between a leader and his legacy. This emotional trek included a pause at Waroros Market, where a nostalgic Thaksin reminisced about simpler times buying papers from the stand of Arunsri Puangraksa, a steadfast presence in the community at 83 years young.

The culmination of this journey was not merely the ritual of remembrance at his parents’ resting place but served as a reaffirmation of Thaksin’s enduring bond with Chiang Mai. His message was crystal clear – Chiang Mai was not just his past; it was his promise for the years to come.

However, as night fell and the backdrop of Chiang Mai embraced the evening, Thaksin’s narrative took an interesting turn with a dinner invite from Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, mediated by another former PM, Somchai Wongsawat. Over dinner, the erstwhile premier made it known, “I am a former prime minister. I have to support the current one.” This moment wasn’t just about politics; it was about mentorship, continuity, and the subtle art of governance.

Yet, as the adoration flowed freely, not all were charmed by the spectacle of Thaksin’s return. Voices of dissent emerged, pointing to what they perceive as a manifestation of unequal treatment accorded to Thaksin, juxtaposed against his status as a convict on parole. Critics like Sonthiya Sawasdee and Thepthai Senphong raised concerns over the implications of senior civil servants’ engagement with Thaksin, hinting at an undercurrent of controversy amidst the celebration.

But, for a moment, setting aside the political fray and the contentious debates, Thaksin Shinawatra’s return to Chiang Mai was, undeniably, a testament to the enduring allure of home. It was a narrative steeped in loyalty, tradition, and the unspoken bonds that tie us to our roots. Amid the cacophony of cheers, criticisms, and the ceaseless flash of cameras, his journey was a vivid tapestry of human emotion, politics, and the eternal quest for belonging.

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