Thailand’s political stand-off; Penalty shoot-out

Economist.com

Jun 28th 2007 | BANGKOK
From The Economist print edition

The game is not over yet, despite the goals the junta has scored

AFP Has Thaksin bought the right team?

THAKSIN SHINAWATRA, Thailand’s deposed prime minister, has been
basking in the limelight this week over his takeover bid for Manchester
City, an English football club. But back home the military junta that
removed Mr Thaksin nine months ago has begun scoring goals against him.
Prosecutors have filed the first corruption charges against Mr Thaksin.
The military-installed government is threatening to extradite him from
Britain over other allegations of crookery. Most of his fortune has
been seized by investigators. His Thai Rak Thai party has been
disbanded and he and over 100 cronies have been barred from politics
for five years.

Mr Thaksin’s supporters and other opponents of the military junta
continue to stage rallies in front of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. But
attendance is falling short of the tens of thousands they expected. The
blows to Mr Thaksin’s comeback plans have encouraged General Sonthi
Boonyaratglin, the junta leader, to resile from earlier promises not to
cling to power. In a television interview on June 25th he hinted at
plans to enter politics after he retires as army chief in September,
not denying a suggestion that a new party might be created for him. No
doubt entirely coincidentally, the very next day a group of former
allies and foes of Mr Thaksin launched Ruam Jai Thai (Thai Unity), a
new party that “would not be unfriendly to the military”, as one put
it.

Mr Thaksin’s chances of a swift return to power have been badly
dented by the legal moves against him. But, to continue the footballing
metaphor, the final whistle is still some way off and the match may
well go into extra time. Assuming Mr Thaksin’s takeover of Manchester
City is approved by the British authorities, his plan is to hire Sven
Goran Eriksson, a former manager of England’s national side, giving him
a big budget to buy new players and transform the team’s lacklustre
record of recent years. In football-crazy Thailand, this would keep Mr
Thaksin in the news.

In the meantime, he promises to fight the allegations against him.
Bringing charges is one thing; making them stick in the Thai courts is
quite another. Mr Thaksin should also be able to delay for years any
moves to extradite him, and perhaps thwart them altogether. Under
British law, extradition is forbidden if the defendant can show (as Mr
Thaksin claims) that the charges are politically motivated or his basic
rights are otherwise at risk. General Sonthi’s recent comment that he
could not guarantee Mr Thaksin’s safety if he returned did sound like a
veiled threat.

A constitution-writing body set up by the junta has, under public
pressure, cut the most undemocratic bits of a draft charter that it
will soon put to a referendum. But the generals are still doing plenty
to make themselves unpopular. Besides contemplating extending their
rule by electoral means, they are also planning a law that would give
Internal Security Operations Command, an army-run body, drastic powers
to seize control of the state in the event of a “security threat”.

Besides awarding themselves a huge increase in the official defence
budget, military chiefs have installed themselves on the boards of
state firms, from which, it is alleged, they are seeking big, secret
contributions to army funds. The graft-busting bodies set up by the
junta have enthusiastically pursued Mr Thaksin’s dubious land deals
while finding technicalities to prevent them investigating a
questionable land purchase by General Surayud Chulanont, the prime
minister.

The danger is that, as happened after Thailand’s last coup, in 1991,
rising public anger at the generals’ attempts to cling to power may
eventually lead to violence. Even if the elections promised for late
this year take place and return a civilian government, it may be a
weak, unstable coalition. Meanwhile, if all goes well, Mr Thaksin will
be sitting comfortably in the directors’ box at the City of Manchester
Stadium, hoping one day to be welcomed home as a hero, his misdeeds
forgotten.

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  1. Mr.Thaksin he always superman for me . He is very clever he know how to run business and he know how to govern the country . I do hope Thailand going develope without him. If he would like to come to see me he always welcome

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