Screws tightened on Thaksin, allies as poll looms


Thu Nov 22, 2007 3:32am EST


By Nopporn Wong-Anan BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s post-coup caretaker government is tightening the political screws on ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies as polls show the party he supports is ahead in the post-coup election.

Several moves against Thaksin and his family this week suggest the coup-makers and THE interim government they appointed are worried that his money and influence will sway voters in the December 23 general election, analysts said.

“This flurry of activity is no coincidence. They are trying to discredit them,” political commentator Sukhum Nualskul said, referring to Thaksin and the People Power Party (PPP) backed by his supporters.

The Revenue Department said on Wednesday it was hunting for the assets of Thaksin’s two oldest children, who did not pay $355 million in taxes and fines levied after a probe into alleged tax fraud following the sale of the family’s telecoms empire in 2006.

A panel investigating a controversial 2003 “war on drugs”, which resulted in more than 2,500 deaths and outraged human rights groups, will deliver its verdict on Thaksin’s role in the campaign next month, an investigator said this week.

Some rights activists are demanding Thaksin, who is living in exile in London, be charged for human rights violations.

Meanwhile, an anti-graft panel, appointed by the generals who ousted Thaksin in a bloodless coup last year, said this week it was accelerating its year-long investigation of ex-Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej, who now leads the People Power Party, which includes many former members of Thaksin’s government.

That news followed opinion polls published by two English-language newspapers, which showed People Power leading the December race for 480 parliamentary seats.

The Bangkok Post poll said the PPP was favored by 51 percent of those polled versus 41 percent for the Democrats, the country’s oldest party and Thaksin’s main opposition. 

The rival Nation newspaper projected the PPP to win 190 seats, mainly in former Thaksin strongholds in the north and northeast, followed by the Democrats with 128 seats.


Analysts say the polls show the coup-makers have failed to dent Thaksin’s popularity in the countryside and efforts to discredit People Power could backfire.

“It is a double-edged sword. If they do it too much, people will feel they are ganging up on Thaksin and more votes will go to People Power,” political commentator Sukhum Nualskul said.

PPP leaders are already playing that sympathy card — accusing the government and the army of exclusively targeting the party in the election campaign by sending soldiers to threaten its candidates or canvassers.

The army denies the accusations, but Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the coup leader who joined the government in October, has set up a committee to stamp out vote buying — long a scourge of Thai democracy — but some analysts say it appears aimed specifically at the PPP.

“It’s common for candidates to pay people for their votes, especially in rural areas, but his committee is targeting only those in People Power,” said a state Ramkhamhaeng University political lecturer, who declined to be identified.

After the coup, Thaksin’s political juggernaut, Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais), which won two landslide election victories, was disbanded for electoral fraud and 111 party leaders, including Thaksin, were barred from politics for five years.

Some $2.15 billion of Thaksin’s assets are frozen pending investigations into corruption allegations which he denies. 

On Wednesday, the Revenue Department said it had ordered banks and financial firms to assist in the hunt for $355 million in assets belonging to Thaksin’s eldest son and daughter, both directors of Manchester City football club which their father bought in July.

Analysts believe there is little chance People Power, which promises an amnesty for the 111 banned leaders of Thaksin’s old party, will lead the next government because the military will do everything to stop Thaksin’s return to power.

(Editing by Darren Schuettler)

Screws tightened on Thaksin, allies as poll looms | International | Reuters



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