Thaksin’s allies say they will not seek to dismiss corruption cases against deposed leader

International Herald Tribune

 

The Associated Press

Published: December 28, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Allies of Thailand’s deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra insisted Friday they will not try to dismiss corruption cases against him if they succeed in forming a coalition government.

The pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party won 233 of 480 seats in the lower house of Parliament in Sunday’s election, the first polls since Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in September 2006. He was accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power.

“There needs to be a judicial process that is independent and fair,” said PPP secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee. “The PPP agrees that no political party or any individual should intervene with the judicial process.”

PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, however, has said that if he becomes prime minister he might try to dissolve the Assets Examination Committee, which was set up by coup leaders to investigate corruption charges against Thaksin, and that he might declare an amnesty for Thaksin and 110 of his allies who have been barred from politics for five years.

The AEC launched several investigations into Thaksin’s alleged corruption and have frozen millions of dollars (euros) of his family’s assets. On Thursday Samphan Sarathana, a senior official in the Office of the Attorney General, said Thaksin will be arrested if he returns home for an array of corruption-related charges from the former leader’s six years in office.

Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since last year’s coup, mostly in London but often traveling in Asia.

“There is a misunderstanding that if the AEC is dissolved, all cases will be closed,” Surapong told a news conference, adding that an anti-corruption agency that existed prior to the coup, “can carry out the task.”

PPP’s main rival, the anti-Thaksin Democrat Party, placed second at the polls with 165 seats.

The PPP says it has already gathered enough support from smaller parties to form a coalition, but analysts say that horse-trading continues and that it is too early to declare the pro-Thaksin grouping as Thailand’s next government.

The parties that placed third and fourth — Chart Thai with 37 seats and Puea Pandin with 24 — issued a joint statement Thursday with five conditions for joining a coalition. Their statement was clearly aimed at PPP.

The parties said that the leader of any coalition they join must agree not to interfere with the judicial process against Thaksin, dissolve the Assets Examination Committee and take revenge against coup leaders.

They also demanded reverence for the monarchy and for King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s top adviser Prem Tinsulanonda, whom Thaksin’s camp accuses of masterminding the coup. Prem denies the allegation.

PPP sought to sidestep the conditions on Friday.

“The five-point conditions are irrelevant to forming the government,” Surapong said. “It’s a matter of whether our policies are in line with one another.”

Insulting the revered 80-year-old Bhumibol is a crime in Thailand. Among the justifications given by leaders of last year’s coup was that Thaksin’s “words and actions” had insulted the monarchy.

Thaksin issued a statement Friday pledging loyalty to the king.

“Whatever position I am in, I will do everything to promote the king and queen’s honor,” said the statement, issued by Thaksin’s lawyer in Bangkok. “Whenever there is a misunderstanding about the role of the monarchy, I will do everything to fix that.”

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