As Abhisit Vejjajiva’s favourite football team, Newcastle, was playing their match of the season so far Sunday night, Thaksin Shinawatra couldn’t care less about the fact that the football club he just sold, Manchester City, was languishing right above the relegation zone.
The former prime ministerturnedfugitive was glued to hectic political developments in Thailand and said to be busy making some heartbreaking phone calls to his home country.
“He was begging many people ‘Please save me. Please save my life’,” one source claimed. The House vote to elect new prime minister was only hours away and the Pheu Thai camp was still many MPs short. A Democrat victory, needless to say, will be another big nail, arguably not the last one, rammed into his coffin.
The repercussions can be endless. The “justice process” to be overseen by his political opponents can yield different outcomes. It used to be the courts that he had to worry about, but now the police, prosecutors, the stock market regulators and revenue officials will all work under the Democrats. For a man whose billions of baht remain frozen, he will be very nervous.
Then there are the issues of passport, oversea assets as well as extradition that the past governments of Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat didn’t take too seriously. (It was hardly a coincidence that Thaksin’s diplomatic passport was cancelled by the Foreign Ministry Monday.) And the last two administrations did pratically nothing when Thailand, particularly the courts and the highest institution, was at a receiving end of an information warfare that painted the country as backwaters, dictatorial or fascist.
Thaksin can also kiss any lingering hope for constitutional amendments that could benefit him goodbye. Moreover, if the rumours about massive money laundering in England had some grounds, Democrats as government will be far better equipped to get information than Democrats as opposition.
The stakes explained what was believed to be the fiercest political lobbying over the weekend. Newin Chidchob’s faction members had to be gathered at the Siripinyo Building and had their mobile phones temporarily confiscated to preempt lastminute offers. Bribery charges were traded Monday, with Pracharaj Party leader Snoh Thienthong, who led the fight for the Pheu Thai Party, claiming MPs were being “bought” blatantly with obscene amounts of money.
“Money were being paid everywhere last night and it continued into the morning,” Snoh said. His neversaydie campaign unnerved the Democrats, particularly on Sunday when it was claimed that the Puea Pandin Party was on the verge of defecting entirely from the Democrat alliance. Puea Pandin split votes Monday, but that was not enough to Abhisit’s rival Pracha Promnok.
The Chat Thai camp was also under a close watch by chief adviser Sanan Kachornprasart. Thirteen MPs were checked into the Princess (Lan Luang) Hotel Sunday night and they were picked up by Sanan in the morning, when he told everyone again to vote for Abhisit.
A potential Chat Thai rebel, Ratchaburi MP Pareena Pajareeyang was lobbied hard and she was seen being flanked by colleagues when arriving at Parliament. She did vote for Abhisit but the strict control failed to prevent another Chat Thai MP, Surapong Ungampornvilai, from breaking ranks to vote for Pracha.
The 37vote margin between Abhisit and Pracha meant a 19MP defection could have turned it around. Apart from rumours about large bribes and bidding wars, there were also claims late Sunday night that absence or abstention would as well carry big rewards.
As it turned out, the Democrat alliance was stronger than initially thought, at least for now. Thaksin was left with giving a subdued reaction through his spokesman. “He’s ready to face anything that will follow [the Democrat victory],” said Pongthep Thepkanchana. “As long as what happens to him is not a result of political bias or prejudice.”
This is what will happen today at Bangkok’s Supachalasai National Stadium:
Beeb… beeb… Test… test…Dear People, After my last phone-in, I got many calls from my fans to do it again.