THAKSIN AGAINST THE WALL
EC endorses fraud accusations | Wissanu set to resign | PM reluctant to quit politics for fear of asset seizure | Pojaman 'keen to leave country'
Thaksin Shinawatra, the caretaker prime minister, is feeling demoralised and has expressed an intention to step down. There are growing signs that Thaksin might eventually quit over the ongoing political crisis, over which he is fast losing control.
Yesterday, during a meeting on the Government Fiscal Management Information System (GFMIS) at Government House, Thaksin let his feelings emerge while talking to his Cabinet colleagues about how the electronic system would boost the efficiency of the government's fiscal management.
"If I were not to return again, I would like to pass on this GFMIS to the new prime minister [for further implementation] because it is a good thing for the country. No matter who is prime minister, I would like the country to make progress," Thaksin said.
"If I were to leave, I would be happy to do so for the peace and reconciliation of the country."
A key member of the Democrat Party was quoted as saying he had overheard that Thaksin was thinking of leaving office for good. But the PM's main concern was that once he is out of power, the new government might seize his assets.
Matichon newspaper also wrote a political commentary along this line yesterday, saying that both Thaksin and his wife Pojamarn were feeling demoralised by the political pressure and wanted "to throw in the towel". The newspaper said Pojamarn would like Thaksin to leave politics and go abroad, and only return to Thailand after the "political situation" has improved for them.
But the dilemma the Shinawatra family faces is that if they were to quit, some of their assets might be seized. During his five years in the top office, the Shinawatra family's wealth, plus that of their relatives, the Damapongs and Wongsawats, rose unusually and dramatically.
The Bt73.3 billion that the Shinawatra and Damapong clans gained from the sale of Shin Corp to Temasek, of Singapore, is still held in local commercial banks and cannot be moved out of the country. Banking authorities have reportedly been instructed to keep a close watch on the bank accounts holding the Bt73.3 billion.
All the other political developments show that Thaksin is retreating in a fully defensive mode. Wissanu Krea-ngam, a deputy prime minister and a top legal expert, is jumping ship. He has become the second senior member of the government after Borwornsak Uwanna, the former secretary-general of the Cabinet, to desert Thaksin. Yesterday Wissanu admitted he had told the Premier he wants to leave office.
Wissanu has not submitted a letter of resignation yet because he still has to look after some important responsibilities.
Thaksin's demoralisation is suspected to have deepened. Two days after the April 2 snap election and an audience with His Majesty the King, Thaksin announced that he would not assume the top job until the new Cabinet was formed and a new prime minister picked. But his "break" was a tactical move and he refused to resign outright because he want to remain in a caretaker capacity. His April 4 announcement came in spite of the fact Thai Rak Thai reportedly won at least 15 million votes in the poll, later nullified by the Constitution Court.
Thaksin appointed Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya to be prime minister, after weeks of rallies and a huge protest vote against him in Bangkok and in the South. More than a month later, however, Thaksin had a supposed change of heart. He went back to work at Government House, saying that the country needed him to look after the economy. And he wanted to ensure that preparations for the 60-year jubilee celebration for His Majesty the King would proceed in order. All the time, he was plotting a comeback.
Yet events have gone against him in recent weeks and Thaksin must feel disheartened by the clouds looming over him and his party. After weeks of stalling and huge controversy, the Election Commission finally advised the Attorney General yesterday that the Thai Rak Thai Party had hired small political parties to run in the April 2 election. If the case reaches the Constitution Court, Thaksin's party could be dissolved, if it is found guilty.
While the EC has set October 15 as the date for the next election, it is so discredited that one Thai Rak Thai member said there was still no certainty on when a new ballot would be held. He said politicians were doing little except waiting for the outcome of court cases to clear the political deadlock.
Suranand Vejjajiva, a caretaker minister in the PM's Office, declined to elaborate on Wissanu's decision to quit, but warned: "Keep a close watch. Don't blink. There are still more to come."