Thaksin Shinawatra may be busy preparing his Manchester City Football Club for a new Premiership season, but he also remains a key factor in a tougher arena also about to kick off - Thai politics. Violence involving pro-Thaksin supporters at a Bangkok rally on Sunday marked the first significant trouble since the military coup ended his almost six-year rule last September. It also came just days after Thailand's military-installed government lifted the ban on political parties ahead of an election later this year. The country is also debating a new constitution that paves the way for the polls and seeks to stop the return of a strong Thaksin-style prime minister. The constitution would limit the premier to eight years in office, reduce the number of seats in the Senate and House of Representatives and bar politicians from holding a stake in media companies. Conventional wisdom suggests Thaksin's former colleagues are struggling amid a lack of clear leadership and infighting. The thinking goes that Sunday's violence was a desperate move by a loose grouping of pro-Thaksin forces that are aware that the legal and political tide has turned against their exiled leader. His Thai assets frozen, Thaksin and his wife are facing corruption charges, and the Thai Rak Thai party he founded and turned into Thailand's most dominant-ever political force has been disbanded. Thaksin and more than 100 party officials have been banned from politics for five years on electoral-fraud charges. Yet sources also point to Thaksin's continuing organisational influence and, more importantly, the tycoon's cash, even as he publicly eschews any political involvement. Even some of his most bitter opponents warn the Thaksin factor cannot be discounted. Korn Chatikavanij, deputy head of the Democrat Party, Thailand's oldest, said he remained wary of Thaksin's reach and funds. 'The most potent unifying force in Thai politics is cash,' said Mr Korn, who played a key role in challenging the conduct of Thaksin and his party during his last months in power. 'And we know Mr Thaksin still has plenty of that. We just can't say whether what is left of his party will be united or fractured, especially with Mr Thaksin's cash around.' The latest issue of Forbes magazine ranks Thaksin as Thailand's 14th-richest person, saying that despite fines for back taxes and the freezing of US$2.1 billion of his assets, he is still worth about US$300 million. His continuing legacy will come into even sharper relief tomorrow, when some former Thai Rak Thai colleagues who avoided the ban are expected to register a new party. About 260 former party lawmakers remain free to stand, even if they have struggled to coalesce into a coherent body. A potential leader is Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat. Former Thaksin-government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair described the new Thai Rak Thai drive as a 'fight for democracy against the aristocracy'. 'It is all about Mr Thaksin,' Mr Jakrapob said yesterday 'We know he is still in people's hearts and our movement has to reflect that.' Mr Jakrapob is among the organisers of Sunday's rally now facing arrest. Despite the prospect of a police crackdown, Mr Jakrapob insisted Thaksin's supporters had the ability to fight both the constitution and the election, if necessary. 'We know we remain popular and legitimate, despite what the dictators say ... this fight will go on.' Thaksin's political core remains the populous northeast, where his free-spending rural loan schemes and affordable health care engaged some of Thailand's poorest voters. Even if his party struggles in the months ahead, his populist policies are already being studied by the opponents seeking to replace him.