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Thai military junta strengthens grip on power as Thaksin fades into the background

Updated On: Jul 31, 2007

If the junta gets its way, Thaksin Shinawatra will soon fade into the background as they re-write history on their own terms with their internet version of “True Thailand” (www.truthailand.com) debuting August 15.

This is a measure taken to oppose Thaksin’s version of the political situation at www.truethaksin.com which has already gone online.

It seems that Thaksin’s attempts at resistance will ultimately be futile.  Despite his attempt to stay in the limelight by giving another interview to the Financial Times where he was quoted that he would be focusing on his newly acquired Manchester City Football Club and has “no plans to return to politics, this is unlikely that he will be able to fight back.  From all the measures taken recently, from the freezing of assets, filing of corruption charges as well as the recent accusation by Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin that Thaksin was behind the recent protests against Prem Tinsulanonda, the Thai authorities seem to be winning the fight in diminishing Thaksin’s credibility. Without his money, Thaksin’s power will surely dwindle. It is for certain his legal action to reclaim his assets will be to no avail.  Prospects for the new People’s Power party (Palang Prachachon) which holds a platform like the disbanded Thai Rak Thai are set to remain dim.

Whatever it is, the Thai citizens are not so concerned with the fighting at the top, even if last week’s violent protests outside president of the Privy Council Prem Tinsulanonda’s residence broke a strict social taboo –Prem’s erstwhile invincible status in Thai society. The people are more than ready to get the country moving on. A Bangkok Post editorial last week exhorted the country’s leaders to take stock of the “silent majority’s” wishes. They are not “backing either the old power or the new one”, they only want Thailand function normally again. To that end, they are prepared to go to the referendum and thereafter the elections. The International Herald Tribune observed the same phenomenon, saying “despite what would seem to be an act of repression, there doesn't seem to be much of a groundswell of support for the opponents of the coup”.

Punters are predicting that the resulting governance structure will be a “return to the constantly collapsing coalitions that typified the 1990s” with “the increased power of judges and bureaucrats”. The Asian Human Rights Commission, a Hong-Kong based rights group, said, “It is by now clear that if the referendum is passed and the bogus draft constitution brought into law, it will return Thailand to a 1980s model of elite-bureaucratic government under military guidance.”

Meanwhile, the junta is preparing to remain around to prevent Thaksin’s comeback, not least the speculations about Sonthi’s running for elections. Moreover, the police shake-up that incumbent PM Surayud Chulanont is now mobilizing will put a further dent in traditional structures Thaksin may want to rely on. Retired police general Vasit Dejkunjorn will oversee the police reform which will trim the flabby and corrupt force. Vasit said, “The structure and practice at the moment prevent the police from giving the people the proper attention. That is why crime is so prevalent in this country. The timing is right. The people want change, the police want change. It just needs political will and that the Prime Minister has.” (30 July 2007)

Sources:Thaksin says no plans to return to politics (Straits Times online, 30 July 2007)

Looking for rule of law (Bangkok Post, 30 July 2007)

Govt readies 'true' website as Thaksin's goes online (Bangkok Post, 30 July 2007)

Shake-up looms for Thailand's police force (Straits Times, 30 July 2007)

Thailandlooks set for "managed democracy" (Reuters, 29 July 2007)

Letter from Thailand: Trying to figure out how to make the transition from a coup-led government to democracy (IHT, 29 July 2007) Thaksin's lawyer enters politics (Bangkok Post, 29 July 2007)

Anti-Prem protest: Sideshow or opening act? (Straits Times, 28 July 2007)

THAILAND: Countdown to Referendum Begins with Arrests and Warnings (IPS, 27 July 2007)

It's time to heed the silent majority (Bangkok Post, 27 July 2007)