But in Thailand‘s modern-day political drama, it‘s Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, who‘s been cast as the bad guy by the country‘s military.
The generals who overthrew him in a coup last September blame Thaksin for nearly all of Thailand’s problems – from the bloody fighting in the south and the New Year’s Eve bombings in Bangkok to the cracks in the runway at Bangkok’s new airport.
But for many Thais – maybe most – Thaksin isn’t a villain. He’s still their hero.
When Al Jazeera’s David Hawkins travelled to Thaksin’s political heartland in Thailand’s north to see how much support remains for the former prime minister amongst the rural poor who voted him into power, the results were surprising.
Khankaew Wutisin, a fruit vendor said: “I’m a poor person. Thaksin made us feel important, like we had a voice.”
Saenjan Wora-on, a shopper, said: “The good thing about Thaksin was he helped people. He gave us a healthcare scheme. He paid Thailand’s national debt. No one else can do the things that he did.”
Tong Panchompu, a trishaw driver, said: “I want him to come back. I don’t think this government will be around long.”