Published on February 10, 2008
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has distanced himself from the controversial October 1976 Thammasat massacre.
In an interview with CNN which was screened yesterday and today, the prime minister responded to questions saying he had been "an outsider by that time".
Asked if he would condemn what happened in 1976, Samak said: "Actually it was a movement of some students. They didn't like the government."
Samak, a veteran politician with a right-wing track record, asserted only one person had died in the tragic event.
In 2000, when Samak was elected Bangkok governor, Chulalongkorn University political scientist Ji Ungphakorn denounced him for his alleged involvement in inciting right-wing mobs.
The event subsequently led to the killing of at least 41 leftist students and activists in Bangkok on October 6, 1976.
Samak sued Ji for defamation but later dropped the suit.
Samak told CNN Thailand was one of the Southeast Asian countries that could have fallen into the hands of communists during the 1970s.
He denied he was former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's puppet.
"No, I am myself. I'm the leader of the party. I run this country: it's me; I have my own thinking."
Asked if the controversial Bt76-billion, tax-free sale of Shin Corp to Temasek Group of Singapore was corrupt, Samak said: "... Put it this way: corrupt or not corrupt, huh, in the olden days, when anyone invested in this country, you can hold only 25 per cent, for the rest must be nominees, or any kind of thing."
"But he [Thaksin] decided to change that from 25 per cent to 49 per cent. Now, when he made this change he could sell his shares, it costs 73 billion, and then pay no tax because by law he doesn't have to pay tax. This is corrupt or not?
"Some say it's corrupt, but for me I say no, this is by law. This is he might take this opportunity. It must be his wisdom that he can do the trade."
Asked if prime ministers should be allowed to make money, Samak said: "For me, for me, I have nothing of that kind. But for him, it's his business. He does business, and he wants to get rid of the shares he held. To be or not be right or wrong is up to him.
"I think it's right, because it draws investors, that they can have 49 per cent; you have a proxy with only 2 per cent, so you can run the company."