HE SAYS HE IS LONELY. He pleads with his supporters not to let him “wither” in the desert. He wants to come home. But it seems Thaksin Shinawatra, the ex-premier, wants a royal pardon before he is ready to kiss his homeland’s soil once again.
Thai authorities – all the way from police, public prosecutors, to Foreign Ministry officials – also say they want Thaksin to come back. But it’s a different kind of home-coming. They have an arrest warrant for him to serve the court-ordered two-year jail term.
Strange but true. Officials say they have yet to locate Thaksin. They have even asked Interpol, the international police agency, to help hunt him down. But the convict makes no secret of his whereabouts.
Thaksin said in one of his recent “phone-ins” to voters in Sakon Nakhon and Si Sa Ket provinces: “I am bored. I am in Dubai. It’s terribly hot here. Temperature could hit 51 degrees Celsius next month. Please, help me get back home. I am 60 next month. Don’t wait until I am 70 before you have me back to serve the country…”
In other words, Thaksin may be saying to the Abhisit government: “Catch me if you can – but first, grant me an amnesty.” In response, you could almost hear Prime Minister Abhisit saying: “You should thank your lucky stars that we pretend not knowing where you are. Of course, we are supposed to want to haul you back here. We aren’t quite ready for you just yet. So, stay away or get lost.”
I don’t think Thaksin was joking or playing games when he repeatedly complained of being “lonely in the desert”. He apparently realises – despite the double by-election victories in the past two weeks – that the longer he waits out there (“it’s almost three years now that I have been ousted”, was part of his rantings), the more likely that his chances of a political return will be reduced. Every day that Abhisit remains in power means a further dent in Thaksin’s opportunity to reclaim his power base.
That’s why he came up with a new gambit: Thaksin in the latest anti-government rally last Saturday got Veera Musigapong, one of his closest allies in the red-shirted movement, to publicly raise the issue of a public petition to seek royal clemency.
“I will get one million signatures to submit the petition,” Veera declared in an ostensibly well-orchestrated move – as if to stress that since the ex-premier was lonely, he should get a royal pardon.
Within hours, though, the Democrats hit back with a statement that the petition would be in vain since a royal clemency could be granted only to convicts who are serving their jail terms. Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga was quick to point out that he was unaware of any instance of a petition for pardon by people other than convicts and their relatives or those closely connected to them.
Thaksin is determined to be a different kind of a convict. In fact, he has, in all his public statements, refused to be even labelled a convict. He said he had done nothing wrong. He claimed the country’s judicial process had been politicised – and that he was a victim of such a flawed system.
If you take the justice minister’s words seriously, any attempt to file a petition to seek Thaksin’s return to Thailand as a free man is doomed. The minister had this to say: To be eligible for a royal pardon, convicts must be serving out their sentences and show remorse for their crimes.
How Thaksin can meet those two demands is beyond me. He denies he is a convict. So, there is no remorse to be expressed.
Perhaps, as a character in “A Death in the Family” by James Agee says: “How far we all come. How far we all come away from ourselves. You can never go home again…”
Especially when you played such a major role in tearing up this “home”.
By Suthichai Yoon
Published on July 2, 2009