The other side of the coin

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 28 May 2006

AS they say, there are two sides to the coin. Beneath the reams of criticisms made against Thaksin Shinawatra, there is another side to the story. 

The man accused of overstaying his welcome is back again and the anti-Thaksin group has made it known that the street protests would resume after the kingdom celebrates its 60th anniversary of the Thai monarch next month. 

Two weeks earlier, Thailand’s highest courts ruled that the April 2 snap polls were unconstitutional. It was a decision seen as a victory for the opposition camp. Now, they are accusing him of wanting to turn Thailand into a republic and that he had hatched the plot back in 1999 in Finland. 

“But they provide no evidence on this,” former lecturer and political writer Weerayut Chokchaimadon said. 

As the latest version goes, VVIP politicians went to the Scandinavian nation where they schemed and conspired for a Thai republic. 

Caretaker Senator Sophon Suphapong told the story of Thaksin coming to his house for dinner four years ago and spoke of the Finland plot. Apparently, the billionaire PM also made two other shocking revelations. 

But Sophon suddenly became a gentleman at this point by declining to repeat what Thaksin had said. “For the sake of propriety, I won’t reveal it because it can cause damage to him.” 

And Thaksin’s version of the story? Sophon was upset that he did not get a Bt10bil allocation for rural development, hence the man harboured a vendetta against him. 

This prompted Sophon to retort: ‘‘He ate at my house and now he insults me.” 

At the political front, Thailand is flooded with tales of conspiracy. But what lies beneath the anger and the passion is a larger picture which has been ignored by academicians, critics and the media too hell-bent to get rid of Thaksin. 

Newspapers here played up statements by the opposition parties that they had little time to prepare for the April 2 polls. 

However, Weerayut pointed out that millions of Thais witnessed Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat leader, vowing to overcome Thaksin in the election to become the new PM during an interview in a popular TV talk show on Feb 24, just hours after Thaksin dissolved Parliament. 

“But overnight, the party announced that it would boycott the election because it wasn’t given enough time to prepare for its campaign. After that, the media never mentioned about Abhisit’s earlier ‘words of approval’ when they blamed Thaksin and the Election Commission for the so-called unfair election date,” he said. 

The law says that an election has to be held within 60 days after dissolution. The parties were given 37 days. Still, the Democrats claimed that TRT was taking advantage of them. 

Moreover, news reports a few weeks before the dissolution showed that the opposition parties were expecting Thaksin to dissolve the Lower House to reduce political pressure from widespread protests against him.  

“This means that the opposition parties had prepared for the dissolution a while ago. To say they had not been given enough time sounds ridiculous to me,” Weerayut said. 

According to him, part of the media had closed one eye when it comes to the follies of the Democrat Party. 

“Their message is clear: Thaksin has to go. So we will see only allegations against TRT. If TRT is dissolved, then to be fair, the Democrat Party should also face the same fate,” he said, referring to allegations that TRT had financed smaller parties to put in candidates for the polls and should thus face dissolution for its crime. 

The Election Commission chairman has claimed that the Democrat Party had bribed the smaller parties to boycott the polls but this did not get much play-up in the press. 

As Thailand’s oldest political party, the Democrat has just marked its 60th anniversary but its party leaders have yet to capture the imagination of the poor masses with its lofty ideals and grand talk. 

A reporter who covered Abhisit’s functions observed that the audience sometimes would chat among themselves within minutes after his speech. 

“During his 15 years in politics, the public perception of Abhisit is that he is young, good-looking, Oxford-graduate and sharp-tongued,” Weerayut said, adding that he was popular among youngsters and women but not among those who felt that he had not shown his mettle yet. 

“If Abhisit wants to rule this country, where most of its population still rely on street food for their meals, he should deliver more and show real substance. Few people care about ‘participation’, ‘democracy’ or even ‘ethics’ when they have no idea how such concepts can improve their lives.” 

As Weerayut sees it, Thaksin is the elected PM, whether Thais like it or not. So, he has the legitimacy to be back in office again. 

“On April 4, he told the whole nation that he would not become the prime minister of the new government. But he said he would still sit as a Lower House member and remain the Thai Rak Thai leader.  

“At that time, the three top courts had not intervened. Nobody knew then that the April 2 polls would be nullified. So, when Thaksin announced his retreat, it was based on the situation that the Lower House would convene by early May to pave the way for the new administration to rule for one year before dissolving the Lower House for a new election and a new Constitution.” 

Despite the general praises for the courts which had stepped in to resolve the political deadlock, Weerayut cautioned that they had actually caused more trouble for they had violated the Constitution. 

“The Constitution and Administrative courts are independent bodies. The Constitution Court is supposed to protect the Constitution. Its judges will rule on cases involving attempts or acts seen to have violated the highest law of the land. 

“On the other hand, the Administrative Court takes care of disputes among state agencies, or between state and private agencies or ordinary citizens, while the Supreme Court belongs to the judicial branch.” 

Thus, the question is: How could the three courts set a joint agenda that they would rule the April 2 election invalid when the are supposed to be legally independent from each other? 

“These courts are not making things easier. Now, the courts have told the Election Commission that they would take charge of the next election. That sounds like a joke.  

“As a result, the courts are desperately finding their way to end the mess besides saving their own face. Political tensions have been growing drastically since they intervened.” 

What’s next for Thailand?  

“Laws cannot be applied to our political situation these days. A legal act could be ruled illegal if it benefits Thaksin. In the worst case scenario, there could be a royal-sponsored prime minister to replace Thaksin, should the Administrative Court rule that his ‘retreat’ is his resignation,” Weerayut said. 


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