Thaksin’s enemies will make his return less than triumphant – World –


The Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald

Connie Levett in Bangkok
December 27, 2007


THE deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he was going home to focus on sport, but few believe he will keep his nose out of politics.

During 15 months in exile, Thaksin has largely lived in London, buying an English premier league football team and letting his affiliation with Thailand’s obsession with English soccer do the PR work for him.

In the weekend’s general election, some candidates for Thaksin’s proxy People Power Party campaigned in Manchester City football jerseys in a clear marriage of politics and sport.

The threads that connect the exiled premier to the People Power Party are strong and well woven. Thaksin’s legal adviser Noppadon Pattama is a newly minted MP for the PPP, and Surapong Suebwonglee, a former Thaksin government spokesman, is the party’s secretary-general.

Thaksin has reportedly offered to be an adviser to the PPP, if asked, but the reality is that he is one of the 111 members of Thai Rak Thai banned from politics for five years.

The horse-trading to form a coalition government continues, with Samak Sundaravej and the People Power Party still the most likely to form government. For Thaksin to come in from the cold, the new government would first have to issue an amnesty on the Constitution Court’s decision to ban him. It is not a position supported by the main opposition party, the Democrats. The Democrat Party leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said Thaksin had the right to return and face the judicial process, but should not interfere in the political or judicial systems. “We maintain all our allegations against Thaksin on the corruption charges are true. We see clear evidence of it. His recent movements hint at the possibility of interference,” Abhisit told the newspaper The Nation. “In that case, he could spark rift and conflict, and nobody wants another coup.”

Thailand’s business community is also watching closely. The Federation of Thai Industries chairman, Santi Vilassakdanont, said Thaksin was welcome to come back and pursue corruption cases against him by the Assets Scrutiny Commission. “But if he comes and tries to change the constitution or to deal with the 111 banned politicians, it will create problems,” Santi told Thai television. “We said if the People Power formed the government, and it tried to change the constitution, or invited Thaksin back, or interfered in the judicial system, it would face resistance.”

The problem for Thaksin is that while the electorate gave a clear endorsement for his return through the PPP vote, it was split along lines of income and geography. The rice farmers of the north-east love him while the urban elites of Bangkok resist him.

So expect a low-key return from the former prime minister, sometime after February. The man who aspired to be South-East Asia’s next Lee Kwan Yew has politics in his blood and time, money and, at 58, relative youth still on his side.

Thaksin’s enemies will make his return less than triumphant – World –



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