BANGKOK — Nearly 2 1/2 years after his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party’s unprecedented electoral victory, recent weeks have seen Thailand’s Premier Thaksin Shinawatra score an unmistakable psychological breakthrough. The change has nothing to do with Thaksin’s own psychology; his supreme self-confidence seems never to have faltered, for years or perhaps even decades. Rather, it is the psychology of broad segments of the Thai public that has changed. As often with resignation or foreboding as with confidence and hope, Thais have now clearly begun to take their premier as seriously as he takes himself.

Thaksin has most recently launched a drive against “dark influences” and local “godfathers.” This effort follows earlier campaigns for “social order” and against drug dealers. If the arrest of Chonburi Province’s Kamnan Po, the most famous of Thailand’s godfathers, has been the most spectacular result of Thaksin’s latest drive, three of its more mundane consequences are more telling.

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