Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thai junta orders Thaksin to return

Here it comes, though we've not yet come full circle on this unfolding political drama.

Thailand's ex-prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has been ordered to return to Thailand by the military government that threw him out of power. Thaksin must return by the end of the month or face charges of concealing financial assets.

Here's more from the New York Times:

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, was very skeptical that Mr. Thaksin would return and said that the true aim of the junta was probably to discredit Mr. Thaksin in the eyes of his supporters.

“This will be used as a tool to convince Thaksin’s foot soldiers that, ‘Look, he is a bad guy,’” Mr. Thitinan said.

Over the past three weeks the junta has sought to dismantle Mr. Thaksin’s political empire and loosen the former tycoon’s control over his wealth. His party was dissolved, and he and more than 100 allies were banned from politics for five years. More than $1.6 billion that Mr. Thaksin and his family hold in Thai bank accounts was frozen.

Mr. Thaksin’s allies have promised to stage weekly protests against the junta and are seeking to form another political party.

It certainly seems there is a drive to discredit Thaksin (at the very least), as Thaksin's supporters gather to call for the resignation of the ruling coup leaders and for elections "to be held immediately".

Thaksin seems to have maintained his base of support among the country's rural poor, and the possibility of his eventual return to power has always remained open. It's too soon to imagine something like this happening now though, as he would seem to be in great danger upon returning, despite recent assurances that he will not be detained.


More on Thailand's economic and political outlook from Asia Sentinel and Bloomberg. See also, our past discussions of Thailand's economic and social future.