TIME reports on Thaksin’s visit to Japan and Yingluck’s new government:
Is Thaksin Shinawatra a criminal or a VIP? The question must have vexed the Japanese officials who considered a request by the former Thai Prime Minister to start a six-day tour of their country this week. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup, then sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption. Previous attempts by the Dubai-based billionaire to visit Japan and other major nations have been stymied by a hostile Thai government. Stripped of his Thai passport, he travels the world as a citizen of Montenegro.
But Thailand’s government has changed — Thaksin’s younger sister Yingluck, 44, recently became the nation’s first female Prime Minister — and so has the status of its best-known fugitive. He arrived in Tokyo on Aug. 22 to be greeted by Japan’s Financial Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi. “Coming to Japan is my own right,” he told reporters. “My sister has nothing to do with it.”
There’s also this, on anti-Thaksin forces and the military:
Any attempt to pardon or repatriate Thaksin could regalvanize anti-Thaksin street protesters, who in 2008 occupied the Prime Minister’s office and shut down Bangkok’s airports.
It would also antagonize Thailand’s powerful military. Its generals have remained silent of late — conspicuously so in the case of Prayuth Chan-ocha, the gaffe-prone army chief. General Prayuth helped topple Thaksin in 2006 and his loathing for Pheu Thai is one of the country’s worst-kept secrets. But with October’s annual military reshuffle approaching, Prayuth is currently preoccupied with resisting attempts by Yingluck’s government to promote pro-Thaksin officers. “Prayuth and others are waiting until the reshuffle is complete,” says Chambers. “Then I think they’ll become much more vocal in their opposition to this government.”