Thaksin takes helm as Cabinet cancels leave
Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made two key moves on his first day back in office after a six-week break - cancelling a previous Cabinet resolution to allow himself to resume work and threatening to sue anyone trying to undermine his comeback.
Thaksin specifically warned his opponents to stop circulating the so-called Finland Declaration, described by some as his political blueprint to cling to power.
He told the Cabinet his opponents had fabricated the declaration to undermine his leadership and prevent him from resuming work.
The declaration outlines an action plan for the ruling Thai Rak Thai Party to gain and stay in power, including a scheme seen as offensive to the monarchy.
Thaksin denied the declaration's existence. "I went to Finland in 1999 for a vacation with my aides and members of Palang Dharma Party following its electoral defeat," he said, referring to his previous party.
The vacation took place after he withdrew from the Banharn Silapa-archa government, he said.
"I and other unemployed politicians took the trip but my opponents are trying to spin a story of overthrowing democratic rule," he said.
His opponents included caretaker Senator Sophon Suphapong, he said. Sophon might have personal grudges after failing to secure his approval to set up a fund worth billions of baht, he added.
Government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said Thaksin took a holiday in Finland and did not draft a declaration as alleged by his opponents.
"At the time, Thaksin had just resigned his position as Palang Dharma Party leader and remained undecided about his political future," Surapong said.
Although aides and politicians accompanied him on the trip, they did not discuss work, he said.
Many former student activists from the two October uprisings in 1973 and 1976 worked as Thaksin's aides and took the trip with him, he said. These included Phumtham Wechayachai, now caretaker Deputy Transport Minister.
Thaksin yesterday instructed fellow Cabinet members to prepare information about urgent matters for small-group meetings on Monday, a source said.
In regard to the formality of Thaksin resuming work, the Cabinet cancelled its April 5 resolution, allowing him to assume his caretaker duties again.
When Thaksin took his political break, the Cabinet issued the resolution to sanction his leave by delegating his caretaker duties to respective Cabinet members.
Under the resolution, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya was empowered as acting caretaker prime minister and respective ministers were allowed to directly dispense various duties that previously needed prime ministerial approval.
Following yesterday's moves, delegated duties reverted to Thaksin.
In his comeback speech, Thaksin expressed confidence that the political crisis could be overcome, saying Thais were compromising by nature.
He also said his priorities included upholding the rule of law and revitalising the economy.
Meanwhile, a caretaker senator and an advocacy group yesterday asked the Supreme Administrative Court to rule whether the caretaker Cabinet or caretaker PM had a mandate to govern.
The administrative litigation stemmed from Thaksin's decision on April 5 to take a political break until a new government came to power.
Karun Saingam and the People's Network for Elections sponsored yesterday's joint petition for a judicial review.
"Thaksin told his Cabinet he would take a leave of absence until a new government assumed office," Karun said.
Thaksin's indefinite political break was tantamount to a departure from office as per paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 215 of the Constitution, he said.
The provision prescribes for the prime minister to act as a caretaker in transition to a new government - his relinquishing of duties effectively meant the termination of his caretaker's role, he said.
In his view, Thaksin was no longer in office and had no mandate to appoint Chidchai Vanasatidya as acting caretaker prime minister, he said. Therefore all government decisions made under Chidchai's leadership were illegal, he said.
The lawsuit was not a duplicate of an earlier case filed by two lawyers representing the Law Society of Thailand, he said.
The earlier case demanded Thaksin reimburse the state coffers for his pay and benefits since leaving office on April 5, he said.
The court accepted the petition but refused to impose the plaintiffs' request for an injunction.