Thaksin to return to Thai politics

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

File photo of Thaksin Shinawatra from 2005
Image: Helene C. Stikkel (US DoD).

Several reports indicate that the ousted fugitive ex-Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, is to again become involved in the country's politics. He is scheduled to give another phone-in address from abroad on December 14 to supporters at the national Suphachalasai Stadium.

People's Power Party (PPP) MP, and spokesman for the pro-government "Truth Today" roadshow Jatuporn Promphan said, "Thaksin will no longer wait to be attacked, he will fight back by all means, particularly with an eye-for-an-eye strategy, from now on. Thaksin now believes that the only way for him to survive and to live is to fight for his name".

Currently in exile and facing a two year jail term should he return to Thailand, Thaksin informed lawyers from his current residence in Dubai that he would not appeal the conviction for corruption in the Ratchadapisek land deal. While lawyers claim to have prepared the needed paperwork to challenge the conviction, the deadline to do so is today.

Thaksin will no longer wait to be attacked, he will fight back by all means, particularly with an eye-for-an-eye strategy

—People's Power Party MP, Jatuporn Promphan

According to the Bangkok Post, a return to politics by the ex-PM has caused some concern among PPP government members over the divisions this could cause within the country. Thaksin still enjoys a great deal of support from the rural poor in the country's North-East where the populist policies of his now-outlawed Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party helped win a majority. His most vocal critics, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have now occupied Government House in Bangkok for over three months.

The close association of the ruling PPP with the former premier has given them their own set of problems. The party is actively contesting a case in the country's supreme court that could see it dissolved. The case centres around allegations of vote buying and the party's former deputy leader, Yongyuth Tiyapairat, stands accused of paying village heads for votes. The PPP disputes that this was a party action as opposed to the independent actions of Yongyuth and the other accused. A ruling on the fraud from last December's election is expected soon.

Will Thaksin's involvement deepen the country's political crisis?

Critics of the government claim that it is simply a front for the ex-PM and his dissolved party. The yellow-shirted PAD protesters at Government House assert that current Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, is merely a proxy for the controversial ex-leader.

Prosecution of Thaksin on other charges, which he maintains are politically motivated, continues; the supreme court is expected to hold a hearing next month on accusations that he is 'unusually rich'. This relates to the sale of the family's stake in Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore government. Assets worth 76 billion baht (US$ 2.2 billion) are currently frozen over this issue. The ex-PM escaped impeachment over the tax-free sale of Shin in February 2006. Thai media reports that an amicable divorce of Thaksin and his wife Pojaman in Hong Kong will have no bearing on the case or asset seizure. Despite the split last week neither can return to Thailand without facing imprisonment; Potjam was earlier successfully prosecuted and given a three year sentence.