Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand last night. (Details on the event are on the FCCT site here.)
Embedded below and collected here are my Tweets from the evening, in reverse chronological order.
As I’ve noted following Abhisit’s remarks at previousFCCT events, he is a highly adept politician, at least by Western standards: He stays on message, he uses his wit to good effect, he speaks excellent English, and he has a deep knowledge of policy issues.
Overall, my feeling was that the audience of non-journalists — Thais and foreigners alike — were fairly receptive to his remarks.
Abhisit received some cheers for a few of his statements, and though I heard some rumblings of discontent among some in attendance, the environment was not at all hostile.
(Of course, that may have to do with the fact that the non-media audience was self-selecting: His supporters are more likely to turn out to hear him speak, perhaps, than his detractors.)
To summarize a few notable elements of Abhisit’s remarks:
He argued that his administration focused on economic issues and aimed to restore “some normalcy” to Thai politics.
He said Yingluck’s government is forsaking economic development and focusing on amnesty for Thaksin, and that such amnesty will only create more divisions in Thai society.
Regarding exiled former PM Thaksin’s potential return, he said that if Thaksin comes back and serves even a short sentence but is pardoned legally, “we’re fine with that.”
Abhisit was asked if he felt any personal responsibility for the 2010 violence. He said, before elaborating, “we are all responsible in some way or another.”
Carl’s Jr. restaurants are generally located in central and Western U.S. states. But East-coast fast food fans should fret not: Carl’s Jr.’s parent company apparently owns Hardees and serves their signature biscuits.
Following my recent post on Thaksin’s Songkran rally next door in Cambodia, I wanted to point out a related Economist piece.
The story examines the exiled former Thai prime minister’s relationship with Cambodia’s PM, Hun Sen:
As much as the rally was a testament to Mr Thaksin’s popularity, it was perhaps even more a reflection of the unusual friendship that has burgeoned between him and Mr Hun Sen over the past few years. At a cost that the Cambodian government has refused to disclose, thousands of its security officers were deployed along with hundreds of support staff including street sweepers, electrical engineers, health workers and many more besides. While much of Cambodia had been shut down over the weekend to celebrate the Khmer New Year, which took place Friday, the authorities in Siem Reap went into overdrive.
Embedded above and on YouTube here: New Mandala’s “Asia-Pacific future trends.” (Academics from Columbia University and the Australian National University answer the question, “Based on what you know of the Asia-Pacific region, what keeps you up at night?”)
(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)
Will former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra end his self-imposed exile and return to Thailand?
The AP reports that Thaksin, on a visit to Cambodia, said his homecoming isn’t far off:
Exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra celebrated Thailand’s most important holiday in neighbouring Cambodia this weekend, telling thousands of fervent supporters who crossed the border to meet him that he intends to return home soon on his own terms.
Thaksin, ousted by a 2006 military coup after being accused of abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy, led a song-filled rally to mark Songkran, the Thai New Year. Between appearances on stage, he worked the crowd in a manner recalling his past political campaigning.
Thaksin, 62, has been living overseas since jumping bail in 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term on a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated. Saturday’s event, just a few hours’ drive from northeastern Thailand, raises the question: Will he be celebrating the next Songkran at home?
Thaksin – by far Thailand’s most divisive politician – has said in the past few days that his return will be “in the next three to four months”, “not so long” and when “everything is stable”.
He sang several popular songs during his appearance on Saturday, with lyrics changed to stress his homesickness or urge his supporters to support his younger sister Yingluck, the current prime minister. He added an off-key rendition of My Way, which segued oddly into Let It Be.
(On the subject of Thaksin’s singing: Yes, embedded above and on YouTube is footage of him singing “My Way” and “Let it Be.”)
The WSJ, meanwhile, has this analysis of Thaksin’s statements:
Six years after the military coup that ousted him from power, Mr. Thaksin shows he has lost little of his potential to rub his opponents the wrong way. He remains a deeply polarizing force in Thailand at a time when this pivotal Southeast Asian economy is trying to reassure investors after last year’s floods swamped large parts of the country’s industrial belt. The rally in Cambodia also coincided with his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra’s push to change the country’s post-coup constitution and introduce a possible amnesty for Mr. Thaksin after she became prime minister last year following a landslide election victory—a move that could set the stage for a fresh round of turmoil in the country.
Mr. Thaksin’s foes already view the new government’s plans to change the constitution as a thinly-disguised attempt to enable the former leader to return to Thailand a free man instead of serving a two-year prison sentence on a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated. It is unclear what form the new charter might take, but analysts say the government could be looking at removing constitutional protections for the army officers who planned the 2006 coup.
At the same time, the government is also considering ways to introduce a potential amnesty for people caught up in Thailand’s political violence since 2006. A parliamentary House Committee on National Reconciliation—headed by coup leader turned politician Sonthi Boonyaratglin—has proposed a broad reprieve for key players in the country’s political conflicts, and also has suggested dropping all charges brought by the army’s now-defunct Assets Examination Committee—including the corruption case against Mr. Thaksin.
Elsewhere, on the topic of political reconciliation, The Economistsays:
Almost six years after Thaksin Shinawatra…was ousted as prime minister in a coup by royalist generals, it might seem like time to move on. Not a bit of it, Thailand’s politicians seem to think. Legislators have spent the past few weeks arguing obsessively and bitterly about the rights and wrongs of the coup and its long aftermath—all, apparently, in the name of “national reconciliation”. The result, not unexpectedly, is not so much reconciliation as even more recrimination.
Read the whole thing.
And finally, for more analysis of what might happen if the controversial ex-PM were to return, see this New Mandala post: “When Thaksin Comes Home”