Defiant Thaksin denies military council’s corruption allegations

Posted: 20 January 2007 1129 hrs

 
 
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BANGKOK : Deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra denied
allegations of corruption and abuse of power in an interview broadcast
Saturday, in an apparent attempt to undermine the rationale for his
ouster.

A defiant Thaksin told CNN that the military council, which
overthrew his elected government on September 19, had yet to provide
any evidence of illegal activity during his premiership despite its
best efforts.

“(They are) baseless allegations, it’s just a political tool. And I
cooperate very well with all relevant agencies, but now they still
cannot find any evidence against me,” he said.

Military leaders have repeatedly justified their bloodless coup by
saying widespread corruption during Thaksin’s five years in office
undermined democracy and divided the kingdom.

“I never bend the rules,” said billionaire businessman Thaksin, who
has been accused of corruption, nepotism, fixing elections and
heavy-handed tactics against separatist insurgents and drug dealers.

“Everything is through the rule of law, not just trying to set up
my own law, set up my own rules, no, I’m not a dictator,” he added.

Thaksin insisted that he obeyed the law during a controversial business deal involving Shin Corp, the telecom giant he founded.

Thaksin’s family sold their 49 percent stake in Shin Corp to
Singapore’s Temasek holdings for 1.9 billion dollars under a tax-free
deal in January 2006.

The deal triggered months of street protests demanding Thaksin’s
resignation over alleged corruption, culminating in the putsch.
Investigations into the sale are still underway.

“In selling equity through the stock exchange, it’s tax exempt by law,” Thaksin told CNN.

“It’s not because of you are a prime minister or not prime minister
you have to pay tax or not pay tax. The law said that you don’t have
(to),” he added.

In the interview — blocked by Thailand’s main cable operator UBC
following a request by the military — Thaksin said he was ready to
return to Thailand to answer the allegations in court.

The toppled leader appeared to be rubbing salt into the wounds of
the military council, which has faced criticism for not yet proving any
wrongdoing against Thaksin, despite reviving key anti-graft bodies.

Military chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin in October said
investigators had failed to uncover solid evidence of corruption.
Investigations are ongoing.

Thaksin also said he did not regret his policies in the
Muslim-majority south, where his heavy-handed tactics were blamed for
exacerbating a three year separatist insurgency which has killed more
than 1,800 people.

“For those terrorists you have to use iron fist … sometimes they
just try to focus on my iron fist, but actually I have done a lot on
the velvet glove side,” he told CNN.

In excerpts of the interview first broadcast Monday night, Thaksin
denied involvement in the December 31 bombs that killed three and
injured dozens in Bangkok, and said he had had enough of politics.

But although Thaksin claims he has no intention of returning to
politics, the South China Morning Post reported Friday that he had
engaged the services of a top Washington political lobby group.

Thaksin was in New York when the military overthrew his government
and has remained in exile since, hopping between Europe and Asia.

When in Singapore last week, the twice-elected leader conducted the interview with CNN.

Asked about why he was in Singapore, Thaksin replied: “Well you
know I travelled here to play golf. And (meet) some old friends.”

The government revoked Thaksin’s diplomatic passport on January 10,
while the military issued a warning against broadcasting Thaksin’s
statements.

“Sometimes they worry too much about me,” Thaksin told CNN.

Thaksin arrived in Japan on Thursday night, where his lawyer said he would spend up to five days.

Thaksin on private visit but Tokyo to steer clear

The Associated Press

Thailand’s ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was in Tokyo on Friday, but Japanese officials said they had no plans to meet him out of concerns over relations with the current caretaker government in Bangkok.

News photo
Thailand’s ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, waves as he arrives Thursday night at the Narita International Airport. KYODO PHOTO

Thaksin arrived in Tokyo late Thursday on his first visit to Japan since being toppled from office Sept. 19 in a bloodless military coup.

“Now is time for me to relax, get together with my family, see my old friends,” Thaksin said Thursday after arriving at Narita airport.

Japanese officials said they were aware of Thaksin’s visit but had no plans to meet the former leader.

“There are no meetings scheduled between Mr. Thaksin and Japanese government officials,” said Foreign Ministry official Masahiro Yoshida.

“We have our relations with the current Thai government to consider,” he said. “We are aware that it is very sensitive about this issue.”

The Thai Foreign Ministry was in “regular contact” with Japanese authorities both in Bangkok and in Tokyo, spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said.

He declined to discuss details of the conversations, saying only that Thailand wanted to make sure the two countries had “the same understanding of the situation.”

“We have a strong confidence and trust in Japanese cooperation,” Kitti said, contacted in Bangkok. “We don’t expect any problems.”

Thai media reported Friday that the former leader was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Tokyo and receive an honorary degree there.

University spokeswoman Kayoko Hayashi, however, said none of the school’s main departments had plans to receive Thaksin. She said the university was checking with its professors about the reported visit.

The former leader’s private visit to Singapore earlier this week sparked a diplomatic row between Thailand and Singapore.

The Thai Foreign Ministry on Tuesday withdrew an invitation to Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo to visit the country and suspended an exchange program of civil servants following Thaksin’s meeting with a top Singaporean official.

Thaksin, who has been touring Europe and Asia since his ouster, reportedly planned to stay in Japan for about a week.

The former leader is being investigated for corruption and abuse of power during his 5 1/2 years in office.

Thaksin starts to wear out welcome mat

Exiled Thaksin Shinawatra’s Asia travels are starting to wear on some hosts, which include Hong Kong and China, Singapore, Bali and currently Japan.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Exiled Thaksin Shinawatra’s Asia travels are starting to wear on some hosts, which include Hong Kong and China, Singapore, Bali and currently Japan.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao reportedly told his Thai counterpart that he was uncomfortable with visits by Thaksin Shinawatra to China.

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told senior executives and columnists from Bangkok newspapers that Wen had said China “was not giving special treatment to Thaksin, and no government official met him, only businessmen,” said Kamheang Puritanont, a senior executive of the Daily News. Surayud also said that Wen was uncomfortable with Thaksin’s frequent visits.

A diplomatic feud erupted this week with Singapore after the city-state allowed Thaksin – whose diplomatic passport has been canceled – to meet with a deputy prime minister during a visit.

On that, Surayud said he was unhappy with Thaksin meeting ministers of foreign governments.

In Tokyo, meanwhile, Japanese officials said they have no plans to meet visitor Thaksin out of concerns over relations with Bangkok.

Thaksin arrived in Tokyo Thursday on his first visit to Japan since his ouster in September. “Now it’s time for me to relax, get together with my family, see my old friends,” he said.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said there had been contact with Tokyo to ensure the two had “the same understanding of the situation.” AGENCIES

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