Published on March 7, 2008
So Somchai Wongsawat, his brother-in-law, agreed not to become the justice minister. Instead, Somchai took up the education portfolio, although his career and background were largely in the Justice Ministry. Somphong Amornwiwat, who has close ties with Newin Chidchob, was instead brought in to serve as justice minister.
A similar situation happened at the Finance Ministry. Dr Surapong Suebwonglee, the finance minister, agreed not to oversee the Revenue Department, although this department is the Finance Ministry's most important tax collection arm. Instead, Surapong has assigned Pradit Phatraprasit, a Ruamjai Thai/Chat Pattana member and a deputy finance minister, to oversee the Revenue Department.
We all know that Thaksin is fighting stock concealment and tax cases, which are handled by the Justice Ministry's Department of Special Investigations and the Finance Ministry's Revenue Department. Panthongtae Shinawatra and Pinthongtha Shinawatra are also presently locked in a dispute with the Revenue Department over whether they should pay tax for the Shin Corp stock transactions.
So any unusual movements at the Justice Ministry and Finance Ministry will attract the public's attention. Were Somchai to have overseen the Justice Ministry and Surapong the Revenue Department, they would have found it very inconvenient to handle the cases either way they go.
Somphong has been brought in to run the Justice Ministry because there is some distance between him and Thaksin. But shortly after he assumed the position, he signed an order to remove Sunai Manomai-udom, director-general of the Department of Special Investigations. Sunai has been transferred to the Office for the Suppression of Public Sector Corruption. Thawee Sodsong, who is close to the Thaksin camp, has replaced Sunai.
Now we have just witnessed another important development at the Department of Special Investigations. Some 31 officers have also been transferred out to the Office for the Suppression of Public Sector Corruption. But the point is that the key officers working on the SC Asset case, related to Thaksin's alleged asset concealment - Tharit Phengdit and Pornchai Asavawattanaporn, both deputy director-generals of the Department of Special Investigations - are on the list for job transfers.
Is this part of an attempt to water down the cases against Thaksin? Well, you be the judge.
At the Revenue Department, the situation is more intriguing. Although Pradit oversees this department, he will not interfere in the processes of any of the department's committees working on the tax cases against Thaksin and his family. Technically, he will concur with any final recommendations on the cases as presented by the Revenue Department committees.
This means that technically he will turn a blind eye to any attempt to influence the workings of the Revenue Department committee - if indeed the interference does take place.
Thaksin decided to return to Thailand last week after a 17-month self-imposed exile. He would like to take on Samak Sundaravej, who has now decided to become too independent - in Thaksin's eyes.
Thaksin's return has also boosted the morale of the People Power Party supporters. He is also keen to defend himself on charges of corruption brought against him largely by the Assets Examination Committee.
Now the Attorney-General's Office has changed its stance. It is not going to take up any cases against Thaksin brought to it by the Assets Examination Committee. If the Assets Examination Committee wants to bring corruption charges against Thaksin, it will have to do so by itself.
Thaksin has announced that he will wash his hands of politics. He also said he is willing to subject himself to the Thai process of justice. When he was living in exile, he said he was afraid to return home because he was not confident in the Thai judicial system. Now it appears that he has more confidence in the judicial system, otherwise he would not have returned home.
As a Thai citizen, Thaksin has a right to come back. But the public expects him to go through the normal process of the judicial system. At the end of the process, all are willing to accept the outcomes. Any interference in the judicial system for now will result in political tension. But it seems that the Thaksin camp is rolling out its arsenal and is ready to fire on the first order. It has nothing else to lose.