Former Thai PM Samak dies of cancer
Samak Sundaravej's eight months in power were dominated by anti-government protests.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2009 06:06 GMT
Samak was best known for his role as a chef on television cooking shows [AFP]

Former Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej, who ruled the country for eight months last year at the height of anti-government protests, has died of liver cancer aged 74.

Samak, who also gained widespread fame for his appearances as a TV chef, was Thailand's 25th prime minister and took office in January 2008.

He had sought treatment for liver cancer late last year in the United States but had kept a low profile since returning to Thailand.

His political career spanned four decades, but his time as prime minister was cut short when Thailand's constitutional court ruled in September last year that he had breached government rules by accepting payment for hosting two television cooking shows.

In a statement, his family said he died in hospital in Bangkok on Monday.

Turbulent times

Samak led the People Power Party (PPP) to victory in Thailand's first elections after a military coup that ousted his ally, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, just over a year earlier.

His eight months in power were among the most turbulent in Thailand’s recent history.

As a friend and ally of Thaksin, Samak was accused by opposition groups - especially the "Yellow Shirt" movement - of being a proxy for the exiled former leader.

After his appointment, the "Yellow Shrts" mobilised massive demonstrations against his government, culminating in him being forced out of his own office in Bangkok’s Government House by tens of thousands of protesters.

Prior to his removal, he declared a state of emergency with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Bangkok, but the order was ignored by the armed forces.

Thaksin, who is living in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, posted his condolences at Samak's death via a message on the Twitter service.

"My family and I express profound sorrow for the passing away of HE (His Excellency) Samak but I will not be able to attend his funeral," Thaksin said.

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