Thai junta chief to run in elections – defence minister

ABC Money

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 05:10

By: Agencies

BANGKOK (Thomson Financial) – Thailand’s junta leader wants to run for office in elections due late this year, but would not likely seek to becomeprime minister, Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas told Agence France Presse in an interview.General Sonthi Boonyaratglin believes he needs to win elected office so that he can ‘sweep all the dirt’ left by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the defence chief said.

‘Sonthi has to run for office because the goal of the coup has not yet been achieved.The old regime could still be resurrected. Thaksin has not been completely suppressed,’

Boonrawd said in the interview.
Sonthi, who toppled Thaksin in a bloodless coup last September, has remained vague about his political ambitions amid mounting speculation in the Thai media that he could lead a new military-backed party.Boonrawd’s remarks were the clearest indication yet that the military plans to retain some role in government after the elections, but Sonthi refused to answer reporters’ questions as he entered a cabinet meeting early Tuesday.Boonrawd said that Sonthi would not likely seek the premiership because he was not confident of winning the polls promised for later this year.

‘I anticipate that junta leader Sonthi will run in the coming election but not as a party leader,’

Boonrawd said.

‘He will run as an at-large candidate for a party, but not a party set up especially for military rulers to run,’ he said.

‘If he were a party leader, he would lose. Sonthi has said before that he is not capable of becoming prime minister, but he can take care of the army.’

The military still fears that Thaksin could try to stage a return from exile, even after an army-appointed court disbanded his party and banned the billionaire from elected office for five years, Boonrawd said.Thaksin has publicly said that he has retired from politics and is focusing on his takeover of English Premiership football club Manchester City, but the military believes he is working to ensure that his allies win the elections, the minister added.

‘Thaksin is attempting to win the new election to pave the way for his return after the election. He is confident that he could come back again,’ Boonrawd said.

‘The next time bomb is after the election, because he will mobilise all his resources to come back. No one else has such rich resources. He will come back, and he intends to win,’ he said.

‘So we have to uproot this  old power clique in the next four to five years, so we can sweep out all the dirt.’

An anti-corruption panel created by the army after the coup has frozen more than 1.5 billion US dollars in Thaksin’s assets and is still tracking down hundreds of millions more.
The junta has promised to restore democracy by the end of the year, and last week unveiled a new constitution that Sonthi says will guide the kingdom toward elections.If voters approve the constitution in a referendum set for August 19, Boonrawd said that Thailand could have an elected government within six months.

‘If people reject the new constitution in the referendum, (the elections) would be delayed and there would be a lot of political movements that would lead to turmoil,’ he said.

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