His youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, controls Government House. A younger one, Yaowapa Wongsawat, is being brought into the front lines to keep an eye on lazy Pheu Thai MPs in parliament.
Everything does seem to be looking good for Thaksin Shinawatra.
But first, Mrs Yaowapa _ known by her nickname Je Daeng _ has to get past Kingkarn na Chiang Mai _ known by her nickname Mae Daeng _ in the by-election in Chiang Mai on April 21.
This time, it's not just Pheu Thai versus Democrats. It's not just a battle for a parliamentary seat. It's a fight for pride. It's about the Shinawatra clique and the na Chiang Mai clique. And it's about revenge.
The by-election, which normally would be another boring political battle, has suddenly _ after the Democrat Party announced its contender _ become almost a political war.
There is no one more perfectly positioned than Mae Daeng to challenge Je Daeng. Before the Democrats announced their candidate, Thaksin's sister could have expected to sit comfortably in an air-conditioned room with no need to hit the campaign trail and await her grand entry into parliament.
The poll already has all the elements of a movie script. Mrs Kingkarn is carrying anger into the campaign, anger aimed at teaching not her rival, but her brother, a lesson.
Let us not forget that Mrs Kingkarn once worked with Mrs Yaowapa in the Pheu Thai camp. And note that both families are influential in the northern province _ and rivals. The na Chiang Mais are formidable in local politics and the Shinawatras' influence is already proven.
Mae Daeng has a need to teach the Shinawatras a lesson after Pheu Thai showed blood is thicker than water when Thaksin overlooked her to pick Payap Shinawatra as a party-list candidate in the 2005 election.
Right from the start, the Democrats were not especially keen on fighting Mrs Yaowapa. The landslide outcome in the general election and the by-election win in Constituency 3 last year gave the opposition party little interest in wasting time, money and energy over what would be a losing battle.
Things changed, though, when Mrs Kingkarn stepped in. No one knows an enemy better than one who once was in their ranks. The two contenders know each other personally and politically. They know each other's tricks, weaknesses and strengths. The Democrats also hope to continue the momentum of the Bangkok governor victory.
Mrs Yaowapa stills holds a comfortable advantage _ her driver, Kasem Nimmolrat, comfortably won last year's by-election, after her daughter, Chinnicha, comfortably won the general election (but was disqualified). Importantly, the Pheu Thai-friendly constituency, which does not include the contested Muang district, gives her an edge over her competitor.
Not all locals in the northern province are fans of Thaksin, and most of them vote in the city's muang area instead of outlying districts. But the main factor that will make it or break it for the Democrats will be a call for change.
The Democrats know the campaign tricks they used in Bangkok last month will never work in Chiang Mai. Bangkok voters seek political balance and blocked Pheu Thai _ or Thaksin, to be more precise _ from controlling parliament, Government House and City Hall.
But a chance for victory in the Chiang Mai by-election will depend on an opposite tack. The Democrats have to convince the voters to try something new. Maybe there are enough voters who are tired of seeing one Shinawatra after another, including their nominee, representing them in national politics.
"Who knows whether Chiang Mai voters want a change," the Democrat candidate boldly declared.
The reality, though, is that it will be an uphill battle for Mae Daeng, especially as one of the districts is San Kamphaeng _ the home district for Je Daeng and her brother. It would be embarrassing for them to lose on home turf.
Further down the line is the intriguing question of whether Mrs Yaowapa will be able to help her brother keep the Pheu Thai MPs in the House in check.
Thaksin has grown weary of reminding them, time and again, not to skip House meetings, especially during crucial debates. Mrs Yaowapa will be his eyes and ears.
Saritdet Marukatat is digital media news editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Saritdet Marukatat
Position: Opinion-Editorial Pages Editor