A Thai ‘Coup Is Dead’ But Not Buried by Vote

The Wall Street Journal Home Page


December 24, 2007 7:14 a.m.

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The Thai election victory of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party is a blow for the military that ousted and essentially exiled Mr. Thaksin 15 months ago, but it also seems to threaten any post-coup stability sought by the country.

The pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party won 228 seats yesterday in the 480-member parliament, and party officials said today they had recruited enough other parties to muster the 241-seat majority need to form a coalition. PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, who is 72 years old, declared that he “will be the next premier for sure” and that “the coup is dead,” as the Bangkok Post reports. But as the New York Times notes, the military and traditional Thai political establishment — backing the Democrat Party, which won 166 seats — oppose the PPP, “meaning that other parties might come under intense pressure not to join it in a coalition.”

The outcome seemed to increase the likelihood the army could again intervene in Thai politics, a prospect that could rattle investors already wary of Thai politics since the coup, Dow Jones Newswires adds. Perhaps with an eye on the financial markets, PPP officials said today that if and when they do establish a new government, one of the first things the party will do is end restrictions on money flowing into Thailand that required 30% of such funds to be deposited with the central bank for a year. That measure was imposed a year ago in a bid to end speculation on the baht. PPP Secretary-General Surapong Suebwonglee also said the new government would seek to explain its policies to international investors in a series of roadshows.

Even if the PPP succeeds in forming a government, it’s unclear what that would mean for Mr. Thaksin, the telecommunications tycoon-turned-politician who was accused of corruption by the junta that seized power while Mr. Thaksin was in New York for a U.N. summit. The corruption charges against him are still pending, as the Los Angeles Times notes, and he and his Thai Rak Thai party are still banned. Mr. Thaksin, who nominally lives in London these days, was watching the results from Hong Kong and raised the possibility of a comeback, the Guardian reports. “I would suggest that if we form a national reconciliation government then things will move from there and get smoother and smoother,” he said. “Probably somewhere around mid-February they will have a democratic government. I will consider then when I should go back.”



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