Last week it would take James Bond or Jason Bourne to keep abreast of what Thaksin Shinawatra is up to. That was quickly proven to be an understatement. Our real-life democracy hero, an increasingly hopeless fugitive with fewer places to hide, walked undisguised into the Thai consulate in Hong Kong, signed divorce papers, sipped a couple of cups of Chinese tea, then walked out and disappeared into the sunset
Beat that James and Jason. And, may I add, Ethan Hunt from “Mission Impossible”. Thaksin did this without an invisible car, a super-computer, or a perfectly real mask that comes with an imitation voice. He just walked in there with his wife and told awe-struck officials, “We want a divorce, please.”
You have to feel for those guys. Of course, scepticism is getting louder after the two fugitive guests nonchalantly set foot on what is effectively Thai sovereign soil, amid worldwide talk about their arrest warrants, extradition proceedings and visa cancellation. Surely, the embassy officials must have had courses on international law, bilateral treaties and diplomatic etiquette and so on. In their defence, though, the officials may not have read any of those papers lately.
You would expect Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to at least pretend to be concerned by the ease with which the fugitive couple popped into – and out of – the Thai Consulate. However, “I don’t know that. It’s a private matter” was the best he could offer publicly. The Thai Foreign Ministry outdid him with its deafening silence.
So much for “political persecution”.
Imagine Aung San Suu Kyi entering a Burmese Embassy somewhere overseas, two weeks after being convicted of fraud and five days after addressing a 100,000-strong crowd in Rangoon via satellite, and saying to officials, “I want to change my name to make it a bit harder to trace my financial activities, please.”
Having ripped apart textbooks on democracy, human rights, law and equality, and sovereign rights, Thaksin has written new ones on press freedom. His half-page ad in The Financial Times this week, a few days after the UK effectively made him persona non grata, defied all the rules and gave London a good slap in the face.
The ad seeks to recruit the world’s best brains to help him create a foundation to serve as an international think tank to maximise Asia’s potential and prospects, and thus build a better world. Question is, why did the UK throw out such an angel and lock the door?
As for the prestigious Financial Times, its future editorials on Thaksin will be interesting. That the ad appeared on the same page as news stories on Thailand (one on the political crisis and the other on the princess’s funeral) can be presumed a coincidence, however.
Get ready for the “Building a Better Future Foundation” to hold an international conference in Manchester, with Thaksin addressing the participants via satellite from a beach somewhere in Africa. Another possibility is a workshop in Liverpool on subjects like “Taxation, Nominees and Corporate Ethics”. Well, the Brits can’t say we didn’t warn them.
For Thailand, some of today’s local headlines will aggravate the pain of learning his noble, global purpose. Thaksin is reportedly set to declare an all-out war on his enemies in the country, so we can kiss any lingering hope for a “better future” goodbye. He is hell-bent on revenge, sources say, and not even a veto from his think tank in the foundation can stop that.
His opponents are in a dilemma. One school of thought proposes a back-to-basics solution, a compromise. Give Thaksin part of what he wants – some money and some dignity. The other school says, “Look at what he has done ‘without’ the money; God help Thailand if he’s armed with Bt40 billion.”
So, all signs point to new turbulence. It doesn’t matter whether the couple decided to separate because, a) they want to make it easier to reclaim the frozen assets, or b) Pojaman Shinawatra is through with his political obsession, or c) Thaksin wants to protect her. All three possible motives carry the same underlying message: the man is going for broke.
And the message has been conveyed from the Thai Consulate in Hong Kong in the most defiant manner. It reminds us of Jason Bourne when he sneaked into the CIA and used a house phone to call those who were hunting him. The only difference is, Bourne was trying to rediscover his true identity, whereas Thaksin is fast losing his.