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Though he came late to politics after spectacular successes in the telecommunications industry, Thaksin Shinawatra, one of Thailand's richest men, captured the imagination of voters with his promises of a fresh approach to politics and led his newly created Thai Rak Thai Party to a convincing win in national elections on Jan. 6, 2001. He was appointed prime minister by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on February 9. Thaksin's tenure in office, however, came perilously close to an abrupt end when the independent National Countercorruption Commission prosecuted him on April 3 before the Constitutional Court on charges of having concealed assets in a mandatory declaration of wealth. Acquitted by a vote of 8-7 on August 3, Thaksin was left free to pursue his populist political platform