Ex-Thai PM Samak dies
Former Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej, who was forced out of office for appearing on TV cooking shows, has died at the age of 74.
Samak led the People Power Party (PPP) to victory in elections in December 2007, a year after a military coup ousted his ally, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
“He died just before 9am (1300 AEDT) in hospital. We still don’t know his funeral plans,” one close political associate said.
An official at the private Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, where Samak had been treated, also confirmed his death.
Samak had been battling liver cancer for more than a year.
‘Proxy’ for Thaksin Shinawatra
He sought treatment for the cancer late last year in the United States, and kept a low-profile after returning to Thailand.
Known as a straight-talker with a penchant for the profane, Samak’s political career spanned four decades.
Many of his supporters remembered him best for his TV show called Tasting and Complaining, a mix of traditional Thai cooking and rants on Samak’s pet subjects.
His political career, which peaked in December 2007 when he became the country’s
25th prime minister, was abruptly cut short in September 2008.
Samak’s tenure as prime minister coincided with one of the worst political crises in Thailand’s history and followed the September 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra.
Massive anti-government protests
He rose to power as the self-proclaimed proxy for Thaksin, who was living in exile, but became the focus of street rallies by anti-Thaksin protesters who demanded his resignation.
Tens of thousands of protesters stormed the prime minister’s compound in August 2008, but ulitmately, it was not the protesters who led to his ousting.
Instead, Thailand’s top court ruled that he had breached rules by accepting payment for two television shows in which he cooked and critiqued food.
The hasty decision prompted speculation that the court ruled to curtail protests and end Samak’s divisive tenure, amid fears of another coup.