Transcript: Interview with Thaksin Shinawatra

ABC.net.au
Foreign Correspondent

Transcript

VATSIKOPOULOS: Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, welcome to Foreign Correspondent.

THAKSIN: Thank you Helen.

VATSIKOPOULOS:
You’ve been in a travelling exile since the coup last September. Given
that you’re not allowed to return to Thailand just now, what are your
plans for the future?

THAKSIN: I have full my right to go back
to Thailand as a Thai citizen. But I’m not considering going back yet
because I will have to worry about my safety, and also I should not add
any more confusion to the situation now in Thailand.

VATSIKOPOULOS: It must get a bit tedious getting from hotel to hotel, are you looking at making one place your base?

THAKSIN:
Yes. I think…. I like to buy houses in different countries – for
example I ask my friend to look for a house in Sydney, especially in
the Eastern Suburbs.

VATSIKOPOULOS: Ultimately though would you like to go back to Thailand and live there?

THAKSIN: Oh yes, definitely. I love my family, I love my homeland, I want to be there. I want to do some charitable activities.

VATSIKOPOULOS: You’re not planning to re-enter politics at any time in the future?

THAKSIN: You will not see me in politics, not just in the next election, but for life.

VATSIKOPOULOS: It seems as if the experience of the coup had a big impact on you personally.

THAKSIN:
Oh yes, yes. You know what happened to me now, it’s very, you know, I
feel very disappointed on what I really devote myself for the country,
for the people, and for the monarch. But the allegation against me is
really in opposite. Maybe they misunderstood me, or maybe they’re
trying to misunderstand me because they want to overthrow me, I don’t
know. I’m 57 now, I think I can live about 80. So I have 9840 days to,
for them to understand me better. For myself to re-think about what
should I do, but not in politics anymore, definitely.

VATSIKOPOULOS:
Well the Thai government has been monitoring your every move. The CNN
interview you gave was blocked from being broadcast into Thailand, and
when you recently met Singaporean officials, Thailand had very harsh
words with Singapore. Is the government flexing its diplomatic muscle
to restrict your movements?

THAKSIN: Do you know I would urge
every party concerned that don’t worry about me, you have to worry
about 63 million people in Thailand. I’m not going to have, I’m not
going to create any problems. As a former prime minister I’m mature
enough. I have to be very constructive to my country.

VATSIKOPOULOS:
The coup shattered 15 years of democracy and although most countries
condemned it, Thailand is not an international pariah today and hasn’t
been punished with harsh sanctions. Are you disappointed that most
countries have taken a pragmatic approach?

THAKSIN: Well I will
not happy if my country has been punished, because of, it’s not really
punish the country but punish the whole people of Thailand. So Thailand
need more investment. Thailand need more trade. Thailand need more
tourists. Democracy in Thailand has been developed from baby to
adolescence, to teenagers. It’s growing to be a mature person. But it’s
happened to fall down. When you fall down at that age you’re strong
enough. When you come back you can you can stand back and you can move
forward. You are not turning back to baby again because you are strong
enough. So I think after this year the regime have to return the power
back to the people, because you know Thai people love democracy, love
freedom and liberty. And Thailand has gone too far that they cannot be
returned, that democracy cannot be returned. So democracy will prevail
back in Thailand again.

VATSIKOPOULOS: Well Thailand was
bitterly divided in the lead up to the coup. There was a belief that
you were the divisive character that caused these divisions and that’s
why a coup had to happen.

THAKSIN: You know, that’s a good
excuse that created before, because maybe because I’m too strong in
terms of getting support from the people.

VATSIKOPOULOS: Why did the elite dislike you so much?

THAKSIN:
Because I’m too strong and I try to help the people in… the poor, in
the rural areas and the working class people. The divisive has been
created not by me, by those who want to topple me. They create the
divisive. It’s now they should forget the past because they’ve been
control the power already. Please bring unity back to Thailand.
Thailand has to move forward. So let’s look forward, forget the past.

VATSIKOPOULOS:
But with the benefit of hindsight you say that you – your government
was strong, was it perhaps too heavy handed, was it perhaps too
autocratic?

THAKSIN: It’s not really a heavy hand. I’m very result oriented leader.

VATSIKOPOULOS:
Your critics say that you abused your power, that you oversaw a crony
capitalist culture; you stacked the bureaucracy with your own people.
And now they’re investigating all of this and allege corruption. Will
they find anything?

THAKSIN: I don’t think so. I’m the prime
minister at 51, you know, and and and ousted at 57, six years, so my
classmate, my families that are serving in the government official they
happen to grow up and they age. Those who allege me they do, they have
done more than than they allege me, even worse. But, but anyway just
forget the past, look for the future.

VATSIKOPOULOS: Well your
critics point to the airport, which is today an international
embarrassment, as an example of the sort of culture of corruption that
you fostered.

THAKSIN: There might be some defect, defect of a construction, that is normal in every construction, but it can be corrected.

VATSIKOPOULOS: But these are big defects.

THAKSIN:
No, not that much. I think, I don’t know, I am not… I’m not monitor
it, I just forget, when… when I out, I’m really out so I don’t know
what is really the matter. But anyway you know there might be some
corruption but it’s… I cannot go in everything in detail as a prime
minister.

VATSIKOPOULOS: You and your family were criticised
when they didn’t pay tax on the $2.5bn sale of Shin Corp to a
Singaporean company. With the benefit of hindsight should you have just
paid the tax and led by example?

THAKSIN: There is… there are
two points. The first is that any transaction that should’ve been done
through the stock exchange is tax exempted by law. So everyone that
trades stock in the stock exchange in Thailand don’t have to pay tax.
You cannot pay tax because of tax exempted by law. The second part is
the transaction of my children and the BVI company, the transaction has
been done outside of Thailand and internally outside of Thailand, so
Thai cannot collect tax on the activities outside of Thailand. They may
ask the family to pay, but if they ask to pay we’ll pay but we have to
protect our right that by law we don’t have to pay. Why we have to pay?

VATSIKOPOULOS: And how do you think the new government in Thailand is faring?

THAKSIN:
Well you know I… like I said, I would like to urge them to looking
after the people because they take away the power from them. Don’t
worry about me, don’t worry about me, let me spend my 9840 days with my
families, with myself, with all kind of charitable activities.

VATSIKOPOULOS: Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, thank you very much.

THAKSIN: Thank you very much Helen. Thank you for interviewing me, thank you.

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