Pojaman Places the Final Bet

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It remains unclear how Pojaman can return to Thailand without facing an arrest. This time she got a deal to go home. How? 

Is Pojaman making her final bet by resubmitting herself to the court of justice? This time she would not have anyroom to maneouvre with the court system because she has had a record of jumping bails. Now Pojaman won’t be able to leave the country again .

Khunying Pojaman has removed Shinawatra as her last name. Now she is a Damapong. A divorce is a divorce, at least on paper and by all practical, emotional, business, family and political purposes.

As the whole nation was celebrating His Majesty the King’s Birthday and as the Thai people were feeling concern about the health of their king, Pojaman sneaked into the country late Friday evening alone. She would like to come back home incognito, with another name, with another identity. But that would be impossible.

It remains unclear how Pojaman can return to Thailand without facing an arrest. She did attempt to return to Thailand on November 26 along with Somchai Wongsawat, the ex-prime minister, who was flying back from Peru. Somehow she could not make it.

Negotiations for her to avoid an arrest on spot at the airport did not materialse. She had to wait.

Without her presence, it was very difficult to maneouvre politics. Remote-control management is not always reliable.

This time she got a deal to go home. How? We don’t know yet.

In late July, the lower Court sentenced her to three years of imprisonment after she was found to have attempted to avoid paying tax in a stock transaction worth Bt546 million. Pojaman appealed the case and placed Bt13 million as bond to avoid serving jail.

In August, Pojaman jumped bail by leaving with Thaksin Shinawatra to Beijing without returning to report herself to the Court. When she failed to show at at the court on the appointment date of August 11, the Court fortfeited her Bt13-million bond.

To complicate the legal matter further, Pojaman also faced another arrest warrant on August 14 for her failure to report herself at the Supreme Court in the Rachadapisek land deal. On September 17, the Court issued another warrant to her for her disappearance.

On October 21, the Supreme Court handed down the verdict. It let Pojaman off the hook by finding her not guilty of purchasing a Rachadapisek prime plot from the Financial Institution Development Fund. But her husband, Thaksin, was sentenced to two years in prison for conflict of interest and for helping Pojaman to acquire the land.

Is Pojaman making her final bet by resubmitting herself to the court of justice? This time she would not have anyroom to maneouvre with the court system because she has had a record of jumping bails.

What would happen if the appeal court were to uphold the lower court’s verdict by finding her guility of the tax evasion case? Would she get a bail again? Now Pojaman won’t be able to leave the country again until she and her ex-husband prevail over the broad political situation.

Anyway, this case would go straight to the Supreme Court and it would take more years. Pojaman and Thaksin must have believed that time is on their side. In a medium term prospect, say three to five years, they might continue to be on the defence. Beyond, they would bounce back because of their relatively youth. Thaksin would be 64 years old by then, compared to 57 for Pojaman.  

After more than a year of living in exile in London, Thaksin made a fatal mistake by returning to Thailand in February. He submitted himself to the justice system, feeling confident that he would prevail all the corruption cases against him as the People Power Party won the Dec election and become a core of the coalition government.

He misread the whole situation. He might have influence over the police and the public prosecutors, Parliament and the government and might have succeeded in neutralising the military. But he could not dictate the court of justice, which had a stronger tradition of independence from the politics.

Only the Thai judiciary and the Bank of Thailand have managed to stay independence while most of other institutions of check and balance in the system of democracy have been subjucated by political inteference.

In August, when he realised that he was about to lose a case in the Rachadapisek land deal, he and his family left Thailand once again. Since then Thaksin’s predicament has deterioriated, aggravated by the UK government’s revocation of his and Pojaman’s visa. His two nominee prime ministers, Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, have lost their power in a hurry.

Political intrigue

The anti-government protesters have been applying pressure against the nominee governments to resign by first taking over the Government House and second by seizing the airport. It remains a political intrigue why the anti-government protesters have tried to shoot themselves at the foot and make themselves to look worse than Thaksin everytime Thaksin is on a defensive.

On October 7, the anti-government protesters surrounded Parliament to block Somchai from delivering his policy address. Police fired Made-in-China tear gas into the crowd, causing one death and more than 400 injuries. On that day, the public prosecutors dropped the SC Asset case against Thaksin. The news coverage of the day and days that followed focus on tear gas violence with very little mentioning of the SC Asset case.

Thaksin is most afraid of the SC Asset case because it allegedly involved his concealment of foreign assets. The Rachadapisek land case is a local case and has nothing to do with tax or stock transfer that have any international implications. It can be quickly brushed aside as a politically motivated case by outsiders’ view.

 But the SC Asset case has all the tax and stock transfer implications. If Thaksin were to be found guilty in this case, he would have lost his wealth and completely buried because tax evasion and stock concealment are universally recognised by authorities worldwide as a serious criminal offence.

If the protesters were really going after Thaksin, they would rather have surrounded the Attorney General Office, which dropped the SC Asset case, rather than trying to take over Parliament in a futile and costly exercise. They loved to court PR disaster and shoot themselves at the foot for crazy reasons.

Thaksin’s credibility plunged to the lowest ebb after the UK government had denied him the visa. He was pushed back to the edge of the cliff in a defensive mode. But strangely enough, the anti-government protesters tried to look worse than Thaksin again by moving forward to seize the airports for no justifiable reason other than shooting themselves at the foot again.

The protesters’ takeover of the airports  has immensely shifted the political balance in Thaksin’s favour. The UK visa was buried by the news avalanche of the airport seizsure. The world was shocked with Thailand focusing its eyes on the protesters’ incomprehensible action. The protesters have succeeded, consciously or unconsciously, in turning themselves into bad guys.

Thaksin could only tell the world: “See, I have told you so”.

The protesters declared victory after the Constitution Court sacked the Somchai government due to election frauds. With or without the protesters’ airport seizure, the verdict would have come down this way anyway. The protesters have proved to become their own worst enemies.

There are three ways to resolve the Thai crisis. First, it can be resolved through politicial means. The politicians have to work out themselves via Parliamentary course. Second, the judiciary review can change the course of politics by the verdicts against the politicians (Yongyuth Tiyaphairat and Samak Sundaravej) and political parties (People Power Party, Chat Thai and Machima Tipatai Parties). Third, the Military can always stage a coup if the turmoil persists beyond control.

But the immature Thai politics is trying to become more mature this time. The Military won’t step in for an easy way out by staging a coup. The politicians are allowed to find their way out. A shift in the core coalition government is underway, with the Democrat trying to assume control over the situation. That’s why Pojaman has to make a quick return before it’s too late. At the same time, the judiciary review will continue its process unabated.

Democrats Are Working in the Shadow

Suthep Thuagsuban, the secretary-general of the Democrat Party, is busily working behind the scenes to form the next coalition government. He can do so if he can persuade other political parties, most importantly a key faction of the defunct People Power Party, to join the new coalition government.

One report suggested that Democrat has secured 243 House votes, consisting of  166 Democrats and the rest from Newin and Sora-at Factions in People Power, Matchima Tipatai, Puea Pandin and Ruamjai Thai/Chat Pattana. Newin Chidchob, once Thaksin’s right handed man, is defecting from People Power because he is upset that he could not push for People Power to nominate Dr Surapong Suebwonglee as prime minister during the political fight after Samak’s ousting.

How Pojaman can change the tide of politics against her and her ex-husband’s favour will be interesting to watch. Now it is the turn of the Red Shirt people to hit the streets.

Thanong Khanthong / Thai Talk

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