Global Voices , Story by Michael Hatsell
Bloggers are debating the significance of the recent trip of Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister to Fiji and Tonga.
Media reports claim Thaksin Shinawatra, one of Thailand’s richest men, departed Malaysia just ahead of arrest warrants and made his way by private jet to Fiji, where he entered the country under an assumed name known to authorities. He later met with Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama and advisors.
Fiji has been increasingly politically and economically isolated since April, when the country’s President annulled the constitution and provided the military leader (who himself came to power via a December 2006 coup) with a five-year mandate.
Since then, Fiji’s government has imposed a series of emergency regulations, aimed at controlling assembly and censoring the media. Thus, people inside and outside the country have come to rely on blogs for Fiji political information.
Cour Four Point Five reports:
[Thaksin] flew into Suva in his Learjet for a secret meeting with prime minister and military commander Frank Bainimarama on Monday.
The meeting – held in Bainimarama’s office – was confirmed by Major Neumi Leweni, who said a business prosposal was discussed at lunch.
It’s understood the Thai leader wants to invest $300million in Fiji.
In return, it’s expected he’d be assured safety from extradition – authorities in Thailand are trying to get him back to Bangkok, where he faces two years in jail for abuse of power.
Fiji’s bloggers oppose the Bainimarama government. A post from Fiji Democracy Now on the blog Raw Fiji News sums up allegations of government criminality.
This was the story about how our dictator, Frank Bainimarama, met secretly with the fugitive former Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
There is something very unsettling about the news that an international fugitive of justice such as Shinawatra was officially received at taxpayer expense by the current government of Fiji.
It’s confirmation that our dictator, Frank Bainimarama, turns a blind eye to criminality. And it confirms that if criminality suits his purposes, he will happily embrace it.
The criminal acts of Shinawatra and his wife, Potjaman, while he was Prime Minister of Thailand have been well documented by Thai courts of law, which saw fit to sentence Shinawatra to jail for corruption.
Yet the dictator greeted the Thai criminal like a visiting dignitary despite the fact that Shinawatra was in criminal mode, travelling under an alias on a Montenegro passport, as criminals do.
It was a meeting of two criminals who couid help each other.
Criminal Frank Bainimarama desperately wants cash investment to prop up the economy of Fiji, which is coiiapsing as the result of his total mismanagement of it.
Criminal Thaksin Shinawatra is equally desperate to stay out of the reach of Thai authorities relentlessly pursuing him. Luckily for Shinawatra, Fiji does not have an extradition treaty with Thailand.
According to media reports, including Fijilive, Bainimarama and Shinawatra discussed a $US280-million investment by the Thai fugitive in return for asylum in Fiji.
Fiji’s bloggers point out the financial incentive of their cash-strapped government courting such a person.
“Coup Four Point Five” and “Raw Fiji News” report that Thaksin may be interested in developing the Grand Pacific Hotel, a colonial building constructed in 1912 on the sea front near the edge of Suva’s downtown. The building has long been slated for restoration, but plans have continually fallen through. It now houses a garrison of soldiers, who guard government buildings across the street.
From Coup Four Point Five: Ousted Thai leader tipped to develope Grand Pacific hotel
We have credible information that Thaksin Shinawatra, who arrived in Fiji on board his private jet last week, was invited by Suva lawyer Dilip Jamnadas.
The Thai PM met interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama, interim permanent secretary for finance and Fiji National Prvovident Fund chairman, John Prasad, and interim attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last Monday.
It’s understood a deal was struck for Shinawatra to buy the derelict Grand Pacific Hotel at the meeting.
The GPH was supposed to have been developed into Suva’s top hotel by FNPF and Fiji Investment Corporation.
Coupfourpointfive has been told Shinawatra handed over a cheque for $250,000 to Prasad, reportedly a deposit for the deal. But it’s believed the cheque wasn’t deposited into the FNPF account by Prasad until today.
From Raw Fiji News:
It appears Thaksin’s Fiji venture has a probable hidden agenda. Thailand press speculated that Thaksin is bargaining for a safe haven for exile in Fiji and the final investment sum may never materialize given Fiji’s nose diving economy.
Story by : Michael Hatsell / Global Voices