Two Thai parties could join pro-Thaksin coalition

ReutersUK

Thu Dec 27, 2007 4:59pm GMT

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Two medium-sized Thai political parties made a joint conditional offer on Thursday to join supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coalition that could see the ousted leader return from exile.

The leaders of the Chart Thai (Thai Nation) and Peua Pandin (Motherland) parties said they would join a coalition led by the pro-Thaksin People Power Party (PPP), which won 233 of 480 parliament seats in Sunday’s election, if five conditions were met.

Chart Thai leader Banharn Silpa-archa said both parties wanted the PPP to pledge not to interfere with the judicial process once Thaksin returns to face corruption and criminal charges brought by investigators appointed after the September 2006 coup.

“I think PPP should bring our proposals to discuss with the man now in a faraway place,” he told a news conference, referring to Thaksin, who has been in exile, mainly in London, since the putsch, the 18th in 75 years of on-off democracy.

The main charge against Thaksin relates to a major land deal his wife made with a central bank unit while he was in power.

Despite winning easily the most seats, the PPP needs support from the two swing parties, which control 65 seats between them, to form a stable coalition.

The PPP has yet to respond to Banharn’s offer.

Another condition was for PPP and Thaksin supporters to cease their attacks on Prem Tinsulanonda, a highly influential former prime minister and right-hand man to revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Thaksin camp accuses Prem of masterminding the coup, an allegation he denies.

Banharn said he also wanted a guarantee that there would be no PPP reprisals against Thaksin’s enemies, including members of the army-appointed anti-corruption committee that has been hounding him for the last 15 months.

Banharn, a former prime minister, is one of the wiliest politicians of his generation, nicknamed “The Eel” for his ability to worm his way quietly into positions of power.

His short time as prime minister in the mid-1990s is widely regarded as a disaster, paving the way for the shock devaluation of the baht in 1997, the trigger of the Asian financial crisis.

(Reporting by Panarat Thempgumpanat; writing by Vithoon Amorn, editing by Ed Cropley and Roger Crabb)

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