It was an historic verdict that will have far-reaching implications on the Thai political scene in both the short and long term. Thaksin has become the first former prime minister to be sentenced for corruption.
The court said Thaksin violated Article 100 of the 1999 National Counter Corruption Act, which prohibits state officials and their spouses from doing business with state agencies.
Since the 2006 coup, one troubling question has been about Thaksin’s personal conduct during his premiership. The coup leaders, including members of the Assets Examination Committee, as well as media commentators, accused Thaksin of widespread corruption. During his 2001-2006 tenure, he maintained that he was honest but those who worked under him have talked of policy corruption and other malpractice, which have been hard to detect and investigate.
The judgement should serve as a catalyst for further political reform and improvement of governance and accountability. In the past, this issue has not been given serious attention, even though we have clear guidelines for good governance, which every bureaucrat and elected official has to follow. But these have been ignored because those who hold the highest positions have not complied.
The verdict yesterday also affects Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s political future. Last week he was found guilty by the National Counter Corruption Commission of dereliction of duty when he was a permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice ten years ago. His case is now under the care of the Justice Ministry’s Civil Services Committee. So far, he has shown no sign of remorse or responsibility for the violence on October 7. His leadership is in question.
The leaders of the armed forces and police have already made clear their joint position that the prime minister has to be responsible for the bloody incident. Somchai is scheduled to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing later this week. He does not have the moral authority to represent Thailand.