Thaksin Shinawatra’s bid to engineer his return to Thailand and recoup more than $1 billion seized after his ouster in 2006 threatens to revive political turmoil, former Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said.
“There wouldn’t be any problems if it wasn’t for Thaksin trying to get his money back,” Korn, deputy leader of the main opposition Democrat party, said in an interview in Bangkok today. “As long as he continues to try and as long as the only way of him achieving his goal is to basically challenge the rule of law, then he will face opposition.”
Thailand’s parliament is considering a broad amnesty for political offenses since the coup that ousted Thaksin, a move that could overturn a two-year jail sentence the former prime minister has avoided by remaining overseas since 2008. It may also undo a court ruling that led to the seizure of about $1.5 billion of Thaksin’s fortune in 2010, two weeks before his supporters began protests that ended in a military crackdown.
The amnesty plan and parallel efforts to rewrite the post-coup constitution have prompted Thaksin’s opponents to increase street protests 11 months after his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, led her party to a majority win in parliamentary elections.
Since the coup, demonstrations by Thaksin’s supporters and opponents have claimed more than 100 lives as they seized airports and shut down areas of Bangkok.
The amnesty bill would help reconciliation efforts by dropping the need to prosecute thousands of people involved in the protests from both sides, Phongthep Thepkanjana, a former justice minister who once served as Thaksin’s spokesman, told reporters yesterday.
While the bill would do away with cases stemming from a committee created after the coup to investigate Thaksin’s assets, it wouldn’t prevent him from facing charges under “the normal criminal justice system,” Phongthep said.
“That is quite reasonable,” Phongthep said, adding that Thaksin’s opponents will resist any legislation “if he may get any benefit, even if he deserves it.”
Thailand’s parliament delayed a vote yesterday on changing the constitution and consideration of the amnesty bills until the next session, which is scheduled to start Aug. 1. The Constitutional Court will hold a hearing July 5 to determine whether the amendment plans violate Article 68 of the constitution, which restricts attempts “to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”
Thaksin, 62, has maintained his innocence, saying many times the cases against him were politically driven, and has said he wants to return home. The seized money has already been put in national coffers and repaying Thaksin would require the use of taxpayer funds, said Korn, who was finance minister at the time of the ruling.
The amnesty bill is “very clearly stating as long as you have majority support in parliament literally you can do anything, break any law, and use that majority to issue a law to allow you to break laws,” Korn said. “That’s potentially more damaging than almost anything that protesters could achieve.”