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Prem Tinsulanonda

A quick glance at Thailand's leadership during the 1980s might be misleading. After all, for most of the decade, just one man was prime minister : Prem Tinsulanonda.

Papa Prem, as he was fondly called for his fatherly approach to political problems and conflicts within his government, was at the helm of the country's amazing economic growth during the decade. It was a time of prosperity ans stability.

"The people accepted his rule, because he was friendly and didn't play favourites," says Jureerat Buakaew, an assistant professor of history at the Prince of Songkhla University, Pattani.

"Everyone loved him." Well, not everyone.

A series of coup attempts, including two by the so-called Young Turks, marred his peaceful premiership. An assassination attempt almost claimed Prem's life in 1982 -- the anti-tank rocket hit a tree instead of him -- though the public heard nothing about it for almost a year.

Finally, Prem resigned, simply because it was time to let someone else take charge.

---From Nation Junior

Prem Tinsulanonda Center for International Education, Chiang Mai, Kingdom of Thailand