A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Thaksin to come as adviser to Lanka?

Thaksin as an advisor of the Cambodian government.

The Daily Mirror

The Sri Lankan govt. is preparing to appoint former Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser, another former Prime Minister of Thailand Somchai Wongsawat was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.

Mr Somchai, Thaksin's brother-in-law had said that the Thai government should not worry about the appointment because Thaksin's role as adviser to Sri Lanka, as well as to Cambodia, would do no harm to Thailand.

The news report comes amidst claims that Thaksin is seeking asylum in Sri Lanka. (See Page 8 Daily Mirror of 30.12.09)

Political observers say that KP’s arrest soon after the news report of the former Prime Minister Thaksin seeking political asylum in Sri Lanka, may be two connected events.

Thailand Government adheres to stringent policies as regards countries, which are providing political asylum to Thaksin. Because of this, finding political asylum for Thaksin is a complicated issue, they say.

Thaksin has already been appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sri Lanka is one of the countries where Thaksin was reported to have visited while on the run after being sentenced to a two-year jail term in the Ratchadapisek land case, the Bangkok Post said.

Thaksin, a Thai businessman was a Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006. He was deposed in a military coup and convicted in absentia for a conflict of interest.

Born in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand, he started his career in the police and later became a successful telecom entrepreneur and one of the richest people in Thailand.

He entered politics in 1994 and founded the populist Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998. After a landslide election victory in 2001, he became prime minister, the country’s first to serve a full term. Thaksin introduced a range of partly effective and highly popular policies to alleviate rural poverty. He launched the country's first universal healthcare program, the 30-baht scheme, as well as drastic social order and drug suppression campaigns.

The Shinawatra government also faced allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, treason, conflicts of interest, acting non-diplomatically, and muzzling of the press. Thaksin was accused of tax evasion, lèse majesté and selling national assets to international investors. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, criticized Thaksin's human rights record.

Thaksin returned to Thailand on 28 February 2008, after the TRT's successor party won the post-coup elections. But after visiting Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, he did not return to hear charges and applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. In October, the Supreme Court found him guilty of a conflict of interest and sentenced him in absentia to 2 years in jail.

In late 2008, Arabian Business reported after an exclusive interview that the UK froze $4.2 billion of his assets in the UK. However, the UK government has not confirmed or denied this claim.

In April 2009, Thaksin supported protests by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, demanding Thaksin be allowed to return free from all the earlier corruption charges

On 21 October 2008, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions ruled that Thaksin, while prime minister, abused his power to help his wife buy public land at auction, and sentenced him to two years in jail; however, the charge against Potjaman had lapsed, and the land and properties she gained under the deal could not be seized since she herself had held no political office. The Court also revoked her arrest warrant for this case.

Thaksin had reportedly considered sanctuaries such as China, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, and several other countries in South America and Africa. Reports said the Shinawatras were granted Bahamas honorary citizenship and Nicaragua honorary citizenship and were building a £5.5 million home in China.

Last month, Thaksin Shinawatra had been appointed a special advisor to the Cambodian government and to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Cambodian state television said Cambodia would refuse to extradite Thaksin because it considered him a victim of political persecution, despite his criminal conviction corruption charges.

On 5 November 2009, Thailand recalled its ambassador from Cambodia in protest.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva stated this was the "the first diplomatic retaliation measure".

He said Cambodia was interfering in Thailand's internal affairs and as a result all bi-lateral co-operation agreements would be reviewed. The mutual withdrawal of ambassadors is the most severe diplomatic action to have occurred between the two countries.
Amunugama denies any knowledge

When Daily Mirror spoke to Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama about the Bangkok Post report, the Minister said he is not aware of any such move.

“I don’t know about such a move” he said adding that “such a move would be unlikely taking into consideration his background”.

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