HE HAS thrown all pretence out of the window. Thaksin Shinawatra is now effectively the opposition leader in exile, plotting the overthrow of the Abhisit government from the outside. The immediate problem: Why can’t he even name the next nominee?
Of course, he would have loved to offer himself as the alternative prime minister in the Pheu Thai Party’s no-confidence debate against the incumbent prime minister. But then he is legally a convict, wanted by the court to serve a two-year jail sentence.
Despite his visa problems with such countries as Great Britain and Japan, Thaksin is intent upon keeping a high profile aimed at galvanising the grassroots on his side on the one hand, and using his Pheu Thai Party to pressure Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva into dissolving the House and calling a new general election.
Thaksin’s only hope of making a comeback is to get his party to win an election, form the next government and bulldoze a bill through the House to grant amnesty to him and members of his political group.
That, of course, is easier said than done. For one thing, time isn’t necessarily on his side. That’s perhaps why Thaksin has been stepping up his campaign to an almost feverish tempo – so much so that the general impression is of an exiled politician afraid of being sidelined by the people rather than a powerful juggernaut to reckon with.
Another serious setback for Thaksin is that he doesn’t have a strong team of nominees of real credibility who can represent what he stands for – if he even knows what he stands for today. The fact that he can only be heard from afar but not be seen in person has seriously undermined his stature.
What’s worse, the Pheu Thai Party hasn’t been able to produce a leader of decent standing, further sapping Thaksin’s claim that he has been able to build up a new generation of leaders to implement his populist platform.
Chalerm Yoobamrung, the flamboyant stand-in as the “first among equals” within the party, is reluctant to offer himself as the party chief. His bark is worse than his bite. He is short on social capital. And recent experience has taught Thaksin not to trust even those who make public pronouncements to the effect that they would die to defend their boss.
The other major obstacle is Thaksin’s run-in with the core of the military establishment, although certain elements within the Army may still be privately in touch with him.
Also, his frequent, sweeping statements charging that the judicial system had been politicised and harbours bias against him have put him in a vulnerable position with regard to all the cases pending against him. The remaining charges against him are all serious cases of conflict of interest.
It is still extremely hard to imagine how – even if he or his cronies regain political power – Thaksin could escape the two-year prison sentence, not to mention how he will fight the series of corruption charges awaiting him if he sets foot back on Thai soil.
The only obvious legitimate option for him, of course, is to return to fight all the legal battles on home ground. That way, he may still prove his claim to innocence while getting his political base rebuilt in a more effective manner.
Remote control, he must have learned, is shot through with holes, especially when political loyalty can shift so dramatically, when money and interests combine to form new alliances, and betrayal is the name of the game.
Besides, if he returns, he can be there personally when his supporters hold the next occult ritual to exorcise all the evil spirits who are ganging up against him.
Ghosts and spirits are not scared by a man perpetually on the run.
Reference: Thai Talk