The Thai authorities looked set to carry out their extradition threat after all.
After Thaksin repeatedly defied the summons to return to Bangkok to face corruption charges, the Thai officials are fed up with his recalcitrance. A Thai judge has issued arrest warrants for Thaksin and his wife Pojamarn on Tuesday (14 August) after they failed to show up for the first formal session of their trial. Following the issue warrant, the next step was to put Thaksin and his wife on an immigration blacklist which meant they would be arrested immediately if they try to enter the country.
The courts, Thai police and Foreign Ministry are now working hard to secure the couple's extradition. Interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, said, “The government will help facilitate the process. We have an extradition treaty with Britain. It will just have to follow due process.” This is also the view of Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Prasong Soonsiri. Prasong said he was confident that Thaksin would not be able to seek political asylum in the UK because of corruption charges facing him back in Thailand. He also dismissed Thaksin’s alleged security fears, saying instead that Thaksin was a coward not to return and face charges.However, it may not be as simple as Surayud and Prasong make it out to be. The Associated Press commented that it is uncertain if Thaksin could be extradited in time for the next trial session on Sept. 25. Judging by the nonchalant attitude Thaksin has displayed so far, it is unlikely he cares much about whatever restrictions the Thai authorities try to clamp him with. Moreover, extradition tends to be a long-drawn complex process which most Western countries are averse to complying “in cases involving political figures”.
How does this latest twist of events affect the referendum this Sunday? There have been few links to the potential extraditions to the upcoming referendum. The Thai authorities have already whittled down Thaksin’s reputation and severely undermined his financial capabilities and possible routes for a political comeback.
As can be expected, the Thai Rak Thai stronghold in Northeast Thailand is experiencing a fierce political struggle where “state mechanisms are being used to fight Thaksin loyalists who are trying to sink the draft”. Government campaigners and officials are telling the people that the draft constitution is good and will address ills of the Thaksin regime, such as “elections, the formation of a permanent government to implement policies and set aside funds to ease economic problems”. Moreover, the local bureaucracy is also being wooed in a big way –“letters have been sent to the heads of all government agencies in the Northeast telling them to urge their subordinates to vote for the charter”. Additionally, the centre of Thailand –a region once dominated by the TRT –is predicted to have a poor voter turnout for this Sunday despite the government’s best efforts.
The TRT has come up with a somewhat weak counter-attack. Key member Chaturon Chaisang exhorted the thousands of anti-junta demonstrators at Sanam Luang to vote against the new charter as it was “undemocratic and designed to stifle the political party systems”. However, the army is trying to put a stop to anti-charter campaigners by detaining them. When the local court ruled that the distribution of materials by anti-charter campaigners was lawful, “authorities then threatened the police officer”.
With all the contending information of support for and against the draft charter, one can only wait till Sunday’s referendum results are out to assess the prevailing levels of support for the junta, Thaksin and the direction Thailand is supposed to take. (17 August 2007)
Thaksin and wife on immigration blacklist (Straits Times, 17 August 2007)
Northeast the stage of fierce charter politics (Bangkok Post, 16 August 2007)
Soldiers threaten charter critics, rally told (Bangkok Post, 16 August 2007)
Campaigns at fever pitch (Nation, 16 August 2007)
Thailand prepares to seek extradition of former premier Thaksin (AP, 15 August 2007)
Thaksin may face more arrest warrants (Bangkok Post, 15 August 2007)
Prasong expects Thaksin UK extradition (Bangkok Post, 15 August 2007)
Ex-Thaksin MP bloc opposes proposed constitution (TNA, 15 August 2007)