Banharn Silpa-archa, former Thai prime minister, dead at 83

Banharn Silpa-archa, a provincial political powerbroker who served a scandal-ridden 16 months as Thailand's prime minister in 1995-96, has died at age 83.

His death early Saturday morning was announced by Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital, where he was admitted Thursday after an asthma attack.

Banharn was considered a master of pork barrel politics, making his home province of Suphanburi, in Thailand's central rice-growing region, one of the country's most developed and prosperous- looking. His domination of politics and business there led to it being dubbed "Banharnburi."

However, his wily political ways played out badly at the national level.

Critics charged that corruption and mismanagement of the economy during his stint as prime minister paved the way for the collapse of Thailand's currency, sparking the 1997 Asian financial crisis.