Thailands exiled former prime minister Thaksin
Shinawatra broke a six-month silence this weekend, and claimed
he may return to Bangkok this year, in an exclusive interview
with Emerging Markets.
Speaking by telephone, Thaksin warned the government that it
was on its last legs, and that further crackdowns on
anti-government red shirt protestors many of whom remain
loyal to him would backfire.
They want to crack down on the people, but there are a
million red shirts, he said. The only way forward
is to reconcile, but if they want to kill red shirts there are
too many. Do they want to kill millions? The red shirts are
Thaksin said the government had run out of options, and
should relinquish power or face a mass uprising that could
envelop the entire country.
In an earlier interview with Emerging
Markets, conducted face to face at his Dubai home last
month, Thaksin said: This is their last chance if they
want to reconcile.
That can happen easily if parliament is
dissolved, but if [the government] cracks down this time,
the red shirt movement will get much bigger. When the first
line of leaders has been arrested, there will be a second line
and third line.
He downplayed his own role, saying: This is not about
me. Ive been a very small part of the movement. But
he admitted advising red shirts during peak times like
this, maybe one or two hours [a day]. They call me for advice
because many of them are my supporters.
Asked if he could return to Thailand within three months,
Thaksin replied: I dont know. Hard to say, but I
think it is possible this year.
The prolonged and increasingly deadly standoff between the
government and red shirt protestors deteriorated again this
On Friday crowds stormed the Chulalongkorn hospital in
search of soldiers believed to be hiding there, following
violent clashes with the army that have led to 27 deaths and
almost 1000 injuries.
Red shirts are demanding the resignation of prime minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva, saying he seized power illegally. Last week
they backed off an earlier demand for parliament to be
dissolved immediately, and offered to end their demonstration
in return for early elections. This was rejected by
The Thai cabinet is meeting this morning in special session
to discuss the crisis, government spokesman Panithan
Wattanayagorn said yesterday, according to wire reports.
Rumours have circulated of Thaksins death, but the
billionaire businessman confirmed this weekend that he is alive
and well. He quipped: They say that I am dead already. I
am speaking to you from heaven: the reception here is
Thai finance minister Korn Chatikavanij argued that
Thaksin bore responsibility for the depth of the conflict in an
interview with Emerging Markets this weekend. The rift
between government and opposition is deep and it is made
deeper, frankly, by Thaksin, he said.
He needs the rift in order to use [it] as leverage to
try to blackmail the country into giving him what he wants.
Its a challenge for democracy and a democratic government
to fight someone whos willing to use unconstitutional
Korn dismissed Thaksins calls for reconciliation as
false. Reconciliation for Thaksin is that his money and
power are given back to him which frankly speaking is not going
Korn, who is seen by some as a potential contender for
prime minister, said the government was keen to negotiate a
settlement with the red shirts. Most importantly the rule
of law needs to be respected. The easiest way is for Thaksin is
to acknowledge that he broke the law, and when you break the
law he [sic] has to pay the consequences.
He is welcome to come back anytime, Korn said.
If he comes back he has to serve his time in
Thaksin faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand on
corruption charges, which he dismisses as politically
motivated. He was ousted in 2006 after winning a second term as