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 Economist says:
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”
(All emphasis mine.)
- Thaksin Talks to Bloomberg about Yingluck, the Amnesty Bill, and Lèse-Majesté
- Thailand Protests: More to Come This Week?
- Thai Amnesty Bill Clears Lower House
- Following up: A few Stories on Saturday’s Protest in Bangkok
- An update on Thailand’s amnesty bill — and the potential for protests early next month