A police officer, business mogul, prime minister, and now, exiled head of state, Thaksin Shinawatra has worn many masks during his varied career in public life.
Well known in Thailand for his flamboyance, Thaksin probably didn't know what hit him when his visit to the United Nations on Tuesday was interrupted by news of a military coup back home.
His initial attempt to take back control and declare a state of emergency by calling a Thai TV station was rebuffed when military censors cut him off after a few minutes.
Later on Wednesday, he flew to London, where in a statement, he urged all parties to work "towards national reconciliation for the sake of our King and country."
His statement expressed hope that "the new regime will quickly arrange a new general election," but made no mention of any plans to return home and reclaim his government seat.
Such an omission is perhaps unsurprising, given the likelihood of criminal charges awaiting him.
The coup leader, Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, gave an ominous warning of things to come, when asked whether the military would seize Thaksin's assets in Thailand.
"Anybody who has committed a wrongdoing must be held responsible," he said.
Sonthi announced today that he had set up a committee to investigate Thaksin's assets and that he planned to appoint a new prime minister within two weeks.
Thaksin's list of purported wrongdoings certainly seems long, ranging from possible election fraud in March to the most recent crisis involving the dubious sale of his stake in the telecommunications company he founded, Shin Corp., to a group of Singapore investors.
Many Thais were upset that the former prime minister had handed over control of such a huge firm to foreign hands -- and that he did so without paying any capital gain tax on the $1.9 billion deal.
Such suspicions have dogged Thaksin throughout his varied careers.
As a telecommunications leader, he built a business empire worth $1 billion, largely capitalizing on government contacts acquired during his days on the police force.
After becoming prime minister, he handed over the reins of Shin Corp. to his relatives, only to introduce a telecommunications excise tax aimed at pricing any possible competitors out of the Thai market.
As he battled allegations of corruption, accusations of being anti-democratic began to surface early on in his tenure.
In 2003, Amnesty International accused his government of allowing extrajudicial police killings, which were responsible for the deaths of more than 2,500 alleged drug dealers.
A year later, when a minor Islamic insurgency flared up in the south of the country, Thaksin's government reacted harshly.
Security forces gunned down more than 100 militants, most of whom were said to be carrying only machetes.
Even more shocking was the death by suffocation of 78 Muslim protesters, who were allegedly crammed into vans by Thai security forces.
Thaksin's response to the deaths turned the situation into an even bigger public relations disaster.
They died, he said, not because of police brutality, but because fasting for Ramadan had left their bodies frail.
His outrageousness is matched only by his weak stomach for dissent. The last two years have seen him file six defamation suits under the Shin Corp. aegis.
One of those sued was activist Supinya Klangnarong, head of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform.