Samak Sundaravej

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Samak Sundaravej (sä´mäk sōōntärəwā´), 1935–2009, Thai political leader, prime minister of Thailand (2008), b. Bangkok. He earned a law degree from Thammasat Univ., Bangkok, then worked as a journalist, and continued to work in the media after entering politics, at times running a newspaper and hosting radio and televsion talk shows. In 1968 Samak joined the Democrat party; he first won a seat in parliament in 1973. He sometimes advocated extreme anti-Communist positions, and in the mid-1970s he denounced prodemocracy student activists. A deadly crackdown against the students in 1976 was followed by a coup and a military-appointed government, in which Samak served briefly as interior minister. He founded the Thai Citizen Party in 1979, leading it until 2000, and held other cabinet positions, including several terms as deputy prime minister. From 2000 to 2004 he was governor of Bangkok, and in 2006 he was elected to the senate, but in Sept., 2006, the military seized power and overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The outspoken Samak was convicted several times of defamation, but received suspended sentences until his 2007 conviction, which he appealed. Samak became the leader of the People Power party (PPP) in 2007 and aligned himself with the ousted prime minister. The PPP won the Dec., 2007, elections, and Samak subsequently became prime minister of a six-party coaltion government. In Sept., 2008, however, he was dismissed from office by the Constitutional Court for conflict-of-interest violations arising from his hosting of a television cooking show, and he subsequently resigned as PPP leader. Somchai Wongsawat, a former judge and Thaksin's brother-in-law, succeeded him as prime minister.