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On Surayud’s plate: Thaksin’s proposed return, angry South, unhappy Thais and international disfavour

Updated On: Nov 07, 2006

Several “secret cells” in the North are supposedly fostering a possible route of return for Thaksin.

Already his visit to Beijing last week brought on fresh rumours that he was trying to sneak back to Thailand. In a tactical move, the interim government played down the event. Thaksin himself stressed it was a personal visit.

Nonetheless, the army is pulling out all the stops to prevent any such occurrence. The Bangkok Post said “security measures have been stepped up at eight locations along the Thai-Lao border” while “teams of marines were also dispatched to areas vulnerable to illegal border crossings”. Leaving no stone unturned, “officers have also been asked to check cargo ships travelling from China to prevent Mr Thaksin, who reportedly fell sick in China and wanted to return to Thailand via the North, from sneaking into the country” as well as “keeping a close watch on a major casino complex in the Golden Triangle along the border as it might be used as a shelter for Thaksin”.

The authorities have every reason to be concerned if Thaksin really aims to destabilize the current regime. According to the Nation, Thai Rak Thai spokesman Sita Divari said that although Thaksin was not planning to return to Thailand just yet, he wanted to be back in early December to announce the dissolution of the party. Sita said this was because “by the end of this year the Constitution Tribunal may have ruled on the Thai Rak Thai court case involving the hiring of small parties for the April 2 election. Before the ruling, the CNS is likely to investigate a number of corruption cases related to the party”. 

Meanwhile, the South continues to threaten to spin out of control as bombings and murders continue. While the Southerners were pleased that PM Surayud apologized for the excessive violence of the previous regime, the deep-seated hurt and anger remain. One militant group, the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), said that while the apology was good, it was “too little and too late” and it would adopt a “wait and see” attitude to see if Surayud was really sincere in national reconciliation.

It appears that the outrage and humiliation suffered by the people are too much to erase easily. About 300 women and children protested outside the Ban BajohSchool over the weekend to force the departure of Unit 3201 police which had been stationed there to control the unrest after the murder of Isman Sama on 3 November. Even if the SBPAC is to be resurrected, it is no guarantee for peace. What the people want after so much oppression is recognition of their Malay-Muslim cultural identity in the form of self-rule, language and other social practices.

For the rest of Thai society, sentiment continues to be mixed. The Thai “Happiness Index” plummeted to a 10-month low with flooding and higher prices of consumer goods. Bangkok residents however feel the interim government’s policies are good, such as the combating of “conflicts of interest by political office-holders, [giving] the public a role in planning mega-projects and [recognizing] the value of a sufficiency economy”, according to a recent Abac poll. In contrast, the poll shows that the public are not as supportive of the government’s political and economic platforms.

Thailand’s international reputation takes a further beating as it slides in the world corruption index and the US taking a firm stance against continuing trade talks for a bilateral FTA until democracy returns. Now, the government has ordered a full review of the free-trade pact with Japan that was nearly completed under the Thaksin government because it is deemed “unfair” with only the involvement of government officials. This comes in the wake of Thailand’s rejection of the ASEAN-South Korea FTA earlier this year because of disagreement over rice importation tariffs into South Korea. With its ASEAN neighbours however, Surayud plans to increase cooperation and multilateralism, as compared to the bilateralism favoured by Thaksin.

Sources:

Police unit withdrawn after crowd surrounds Yala school (Nation, 6 November 2006)

Kingdom falls in world graft ranking (Nation, 6 November 2006)

Thaksin 'may try to return via the North' (Bangkok Post, 6 November 2006)

Apology not enough, say experts (Bangkok Post, 6 November 2006)

Secret cells discovered in the North (Nation, 5 November 2006)

Happiness Index hits a 10-month low (Bangkok Post, 5 November 2006)

Investigator seeks evidence of corruption by Thaksin govt (Bangkok Post, 5 November 2006)

Poll: Govt policies have city's support (Bangkok Post, 5 November 2006)

More deaths, arson attacks down South (Nation, 5 November 2006)

Govt failing on many fronts: TRT (Nation, 5 November 2006)

Surayud's halo could push Thaksin into obscurity (Nation, 5 November 2006)

Thailand not worried over postponement of Thai-US FTA talks (Thai News Agency, 4 November 2006)

Japan FTA to be delayed, scrutinized (Bangkok Post, 3 November 2006)

PM: Foreign policy is multilateral, Asean (Bangkok Post, 2 November 2006)

Embassy 'silent' on Thaksin's trip to China (Nation, 2 November 2006)

Thailand rejects deal with South Korea (Nation, 10 May 2006)