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Homing in on Thaksin

Updated On: May 18, 2007

The Thai authorities’ obsession with ousted Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra continues despite widespread public urging that the stabilization of Thai society is the more urgent task at hand.

The authorities are closer than ever on the heels of Thaksin yet he seems to be able to elude their grasp. Indeed he seems to be flamboyantly flaunting his powers and wealth. On Thursday morning, 17 May, Thaksin gave a live radio interview broadcasted on “a community radio, with limited broadcast coverage”. The Bangkok Post reported that it “was the first time Mr Thaksin had spoken to any Thai media since the Sept 19 coup”.  Thaksin called for an early election and “said he believed people would not tolerate any delays in the election”. He even reassured the CNS and the Surayud government that “they need not worry about him, but instead should use their time to solve problems of the country”.

Nonetheless, there has been word going around that Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra “is the front runner to lead a new political party formed from the remnants of the Thai Rak Thai party, should it be dissolved [when the Constitution Tribunal rules on separate electoral fraud cases against Thai Rak Thai and the Democrat parties on May 30]”, the Nation reported. Former Thai Rak Thai member for Chiang Rai Samart Kaewmeechai also said, “She was behind his success in politics. So she is the most suitable to be party leader.”

Meanwhile the authorities are agonizing over how to bring Thaksin to justice over corruption charges. On one hand they are keen to prosecute him; on the other they do not want him back in Thailand for fear of destabilizing the country and possibly shaking the leadership. To get round this problem, the head of the Assets Scrutiny Committee's land deal inquiry panel on Khunying Potjaman's 772-million-baht purchase of land from the Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) in 2003 when Thaksin was in office, Udom Fuangfung, said that the “lawsuit will not be filed in the Criminal Court [but] it will go to the political crime section of the Supreme Court and the accused parties do not have to appear before the court for the first hearing”.

The Bangkok Post noted that Udom stressed that “if the panel of judges agrees to accept the case, the court will then issue summonses for the accused, and the accused would have to report to the court and stand trial”. When that happens, “neither the Surayud government nor the Council for National Security (CNS) may bar Thaksin from returning to Thailand”.

In response, PM Surayud said “is government is willing to abide by the Supreme Court's order”, while head of the CNS, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, promised no intervention. Yet, the CNS is actively “looking into possible options as to how Thaksin can stand trial”.

Clipping Thaksin’s wings may be a prudent move on the part of the CNS if it wants to remain in power. Thai Rak Thai party member Torpong Chaiyasarn interpreted Thaksin’s political ambitions from his words, “I have to stay longer in foreign countries for the unity of the nation. My patience is wearing thin. Don't pressure me too much.” However, Thaksin’s lawyer Noppadon Pattama denied this vehemently, saying, “Thaksin would like to quit politics. But when he says he will return, that will most likely mean that he wants to come back to fight for justice on charges against him. And no one can stop him from coming.”

Sources:

Lawyer says Thaksin will quit politics (Bangkok Post, 17 May 2007)No need for Thaksin' at his trial start (Bangkok Post, 17 May 2007)Thaksin live on Thai airwaves (Bangkok Post, 17 May 2007)Thaksin return for trial up to CNS (Bangkok Post, 16 May 2007)

Abhisit hits back at TRT lawyer's claim (Bangkok Post, 16 May 2007)

Man City deal: where will the money come from? (Nation, 16 May 2007)

Thaksin's wife pleads not guilty in Thai tax case (Reuters, 16 May 2007)

Central bank could stymie Man City deal (Nation, 16 May 2007)THAILAND: CNS to hit back at pro-Thaksin website (Bangkok Post, 15 May 2007)

Thaksin's political ambitions 'still alive' (Nation, 16 May 2007)

Thaksin's wife top choice to lead a new party (Straits Times, 16 May 2007)

Will Democrats be the sacrificial lamb? (Nation, 16 May 2007)

Report that judges voted to dissolve parties 'untrue' (Nation, 16 May 2007)