Ousted Thai PM allies accuse army of smear plan

ReutersIndia

Wed Oct 24, 2007 12:28pm
 

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Supporters of former Thai Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a bloodless coup last year, accused the
army on Wednesday of plotting a smear campaign to prevent them from
winning December’s general election.

They posted on a pro-Thaksin Web site what they said was a
confidential report by an army colonel to coup leader Sonthi
Boonyaratglin detailing ways to discredit Thaksin and the party his
backers joined after his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party was
disbanded for vote fraud.

“I can neither deny or confirm the report,” said Colonel Sunsern
Kaewkumnerd, a spokesman for the Council for National Security, as the
coup leaders call themselves.

Sonthi, who retired as army chief last month and became a deputy
prime minister, declined direct comment on the authenticity of the
report, which raised questions about whether a free and fair election
was possible. “National security is first and foremost. If there is an
issue that may threaten national security, the army needs to be
involved and take care of it,” Sonthi told reporters when asked about
the report, which he declined to discuss in detail.

The most damaging plan alleged by supporters of Thaksin, the new
owner of English Premier League football club Manchester City who lives
in exile in London, was to spread rumours that he wanted to replace the
constitutional monarchy.

The report, as published on the http://www.hi-thaksin.org site, suggests
spreading rumours that Thaksin was colluding with Singapore to install
a presidential system and hiring foreign reporters to write articles
critical of the monarchy.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who will be 80 in December and is now in
hospital, is genuinely revered in Thailand, including the countryside
where Thaksin won many of the votes that swept him to two election
victories.

The report, as published on the Web site, also suggested a campaign
to persuade voters that Thaksin’s populist policies, such as
almost-free universal health care and cheap village loans, were also
contrary to King Bhumibol’s beliefs.

The monarch espouses what he calls a sufficiency economy, one in line with Buddhist beliefs of living within ones means.

Thaksin has said frequently he has never done anything to undermine the monarchy.

But the report, as published, does suggest the army is still
worried about the persistent popularity of Thaksin, despite charges of
corruption against him.

Thaksin, whose loyal supporters took over the tiny People’s Power
Party, has also had $2.15 billion in Thai accounts frozen by an
army-appointed panel due to allegations of amassing wealth while in
power.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Sonthi said the
government he installed would use a Cold War-era anti-communist
security network to teach voters to elect “good people” in December.

“I’ve assigned the ISOC to train civil servants from various
ministries to have a good grasp of the concepts of the rights and
duties of the perfect Thai,” he said. “Then these government officials
will be mobilised to educate the people.”

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