PM quashes Thaksin return
Surayud insists a settled, democratic government must be in power first; 'undercurrent' also needs dealing with
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont leads youths from the deep South on a trek through Khao Yai National Park yesterday as part of a campaign called ‘Sarn-Jai-Thai Soo Jai Tai’ (Connecting Thai hearts to southern people) that aims to restore peace and unders
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has dashed any hope of Thaksin Shinawatra returning home soon, saying the deposed leader must wait until a democratic government is established.
In his most unequivocal remark yet regarding Thaksin's London exile and his wish to return home, Surayud said: "The best way is for us to get past this problem-solving process. After a year, when we have an election and when a new government is in place, that should be the most appropriate time."
The tough stand on Thaksin's future came after the interim leaders clashed with a former powerful ally of Thaksin. General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, former prime minister and senior member of the Thaksin regime, has provoked the ire of the coup-makers by criticising their work and suggesting Thaksin should be allowed to come home and be contained to his residence.
Surayud yesterday described the "house arrest" idea as "impossible".
"That would be tantamount to restraining him, which is not the way it should be. It would be like what happens in our neighbouring country. I don't think it's a good idea."
Thaksin, who has made it known that he wishes to return to Thailand from virtual exile in London, had been asked by those who overthrew him to be patient and wait until the political climate becomes more stable. "Stability" was initially linked by Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas to the time when martial law was lifted.
But Surayud made it clear yesterday Thaksin would have to wait much longer. "When we have a constitution draft, a public referendum and then the country is set to have an election, then the negotiations [on Thaksin's return] should be able to begin."
Amid persistent rumours of Thaksin's worsening "homesickness", some political analysts see this as a smart move. Worried about "undercurrents" - the term used to describe remnants of the Thaksin regime capable of creating political turmoil - the interim leadership has sent him a subtle but clear message: behave and you can come home in a year; create trouble and it could be a very long wait.
Surayud yesterday refused to be drawn into the showdown with Chavalit. Asked if he thought his criticism of the Council for National Security (CNS) was motivated by the former prime minister's not getting any "reward" for the overthrow of Thaksin, Surayud said: "He hasn't talked to me directly so I don't know."
The coup-makers have suggested Chavalit was unhappy that people close to him had not been appointed to the boards of state enterprises, which have been dominated by many senior men in uniform.
A source close to Chavalit confirmed yesterday he came out to attack the CNS after becoming dissatisfied he had no political role to play, although he had a part in the September 19 coup.
The source said Chavalit was angry that he was left in the dark about the establishment of the CNS and the Cabinet as well as boards of state enterprises.
The source said Chavalit learned about the new Cabinet line-up just two days before it was submitted for a royal command, and he discovered that a senior figure played a key role in all appointments of the Cabinet, state enterprise boards and senior government positions while Surayud could only select six to seven of his Cabinet members.
Meanwhile, Pongthep Thepkanchana, acting deputy leader of the Thai Rak Thai Party, said the government and CNS need not worry about Thaksin now because he will not return to Thailand in the near future.
"There is nothing to worry about," he said.
He also said Thai Rak Thai would not undertake political actions at this time.
Democrat Party leader Abhhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he was "puzzled" to hear Chavalit suggest Thaksin should be allowed to return.
"Reporters must ask Chavalit what his real motive was for saying so," he said.
Abhisit said all sides now wanted the process of returning the mandate to the people to run as smoothly as possible.
He said the reports about Thaksin's moves had been affecting stability, so if Thaksin wants to see stability and order in the country he should make it clear that he will not return to Thailand soon.
"It will not bode well to anyone if the situation remains unclear," Abhisit said.
Pipop Thongchai, an adviser to the Campaign for Popular Democracy, yesterday said Chavalit could be seen as having political motives with his suggestion about Thaksin's return.
Pipop said Chavalit should provide clearer explanations as to why Thaksin should be allowed to return now.