THERE is hardly any doubt that former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is an intelligent person. So, when he said in his note to “dear friends in the international media” on October 22 that he was “confused” by the Supreme Court’s verdict a day earlier to jail him for two years, he was only being humble.
Or, to put it mildly, he was only pretending that he didn’t get it.
Of course, he knew exactly what brought about the unprecedented jail sentence for an ex-premier.
It’s Article 100 of the National Counter Corruption Commission law which, for the first time, spells out clearly that “conflicts of interest” among Cabinet members are punishable by imprisonment.
What Thaksin didn’t expect was to become the first big fish to be caught by this huge net – and a very big one at that.
He simply couldn’t bring himself to face the fact that a man of his wealth and influence could be sentenced to a jail term. He was “confused” because he thought he could get away with anything – even when he was out of office.
This was what he wrote about his “confusion”:
“I listened to the judgement yesterday and even now I am still confused; there is no evidence of fraud, corruption or abuse of power in relation to the bid in question; my wife was the one who was involved and made the decision to bid for the land, offered a lot more to the seller, the Financial Institutions Development Fund [FIDF], than other bidders, signed the contract with the seller, paid for the land with no involvement from her husband except when he was required to sign a spousal form …”
No evidence of fraud, corruption or abuse of power?
It was an anti-corruption clause that he had violated, according to the verdict. And “conflict of interest” committed by a prime minister is clearly a clear case of corruption and abuse of power.
He added: “The best I can comprehend is that I was convicted simply because I was a politician. In that case, I was guilty because I was quite a successful politician. I got elected twice by the majority of the Thai people as prime minister.”
No, he wasn’t convicted because he was a politician. The prison term was imposed on him because he was a politician caught violating a tough clause in a law aimed at snaring politicians who make no distinction between personal and public interest.
Thaksin and his wife take part in merit making ceremony at a temple in London to bless his luck reportedly after the verdict.
And that, without exception, is a serious crime in any politically developed country, especially in the United Kingdom, which Thaksin had earlier described as a “democratically mature country”.
Politicians, particularly those given a public mandate to run a country, are supposed to avoid any act that may be construed as benefiting their own family members when they should be acting for the public interest. In this case, Thaksin admitted having signed a spousal consent form to allow his wife to bid for a piece of land being handled by a government agency.
As the verdict pointed out, as soon as word went out that the PM’s wife was in the bidding contest, officials in charge of the auction immediately knew what they were supposed to do. The level playing field was immediately tilted to one side.
Thaksin knew, and we all knew, that it didn’t matter at all, as he claimed in his statement, that he didn’t have any direct supervisory power over the FIDF. The public, the officials, his wife and the premier himself knew how things were supposed to work. And he exploited that to the hilt.
Thaksin blamed “various groups of privileged elites” for conspiring against him. He says they “believe in anything but democracy”. Thaksin says he is a threat to them “because I represent the principle of liberal democracy”.
Perhaps he really is confused here. Thaksin himself is, without a doubt, at the forefront of Thailand’s “privileged elite”. He also apparently confuses electoral gimmickry and populism with “liberal democracy”.
If Thaksin isn’t one of highest members of the “privileged elite”, he wouldn’t be able to call the shots from afar, even when he is now called, in some circles, “Inmate Thaksin”.
Besides, if he were just an ordinary man trying to help the country, he wouldn’t be able to create such a sensation by simply saying he will make a public address to his supporters by telephone on November 1 at a gathering of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.
In the end, it’s not the two-year jail term that “confused” him. After all, he insisted all along that the issue of conflict of interest was nothing but his critics’ feeble excuse to irritate him. Nothing more, nothing less.
No. Thaksin simply can’t live with the fact that he became the first politician to be convicted under Article 100 of the National Counter Corruption Commission Act.