THAKSIN Shinawatra, still in self-imposed exile in Dubai, was obviously in a good mood yesterday when he made a phone call to thousands of red shirts who gathered at Sanam Luang to air grievances to Palace officials on his behalf. He must have felt a sense of vindication that his unrelenting power play has involved the monarchy.
It was also the day when he showed utmost satisfaction that there are millions of people, mostly at the grassroots level, who remain loyal to him and are still addicted to his populist projects and freebies. It is estimated that four million people signed the petition after a few months of active hunting for support.
Now that Thaksin has elevated the campaign and is aiming at the palace, only more political trouble can be expected, with the red shirts emboldened by their apparent success. The ringleaders can also expect handsome rewards from the fugitive boss, who made two phone calls to the rally.
Like it or not, Thaksin has become a burden on this land. This fight is for him to attain status as the most privileged person in the country; a person who should be able to stay above the law, including a whitewash from the two-year jail term he is now evading.
During his years as prime minister, while he was widely criticised for his authoritarian streak and cronyism, the entire nation was infected by widespread corruption. Politicians took heavy kickbacks from sweetheart contracts doled out by Thaksin’s cronies. The damage has been extensive and is still hard to assess.
His current status as a fugitive criminal makes him struggle harder, now that his movement is confined. Thaksin is barred from entering many countries, leaving only some far-flung lands in Africa and Latin America still willing to entertain his business ventures and proposals. At the same time, Thailand cannot escape the malicious acts carried out by the red shirts under his stewardship.
The havoc caused by Thaksin’s periodic phone-ins and video links to the red-shirt rallies has been an extra financial burden to the country. During the Asean ministers meeting in Phuket last month, the armed forces asked for a Bt300 million budget for troops to provide security during the period. It was cut down to some Bt200 million. But this is still a tidy sum that could be put to better use.
The fiasco of the Asean summit in Pattaya cost much less, yet the government still has to help the police department to fund the per diems retroactively to the policemen who served there, even though they failed miserably in the security operation. If all rallies by the red shirts are taken into account, the expenses on security added together are, and will be, substantial.
All these expenses have to be borne by the taxpayer. If Thaksin takes pleasure in causing trouble to the Abhisit government, he should be mindful about the other suffering he causes: Mental stress among city residents, the impact on the economy, opportunities lost, and billions of dollars in investment gone begging due to the lack of confidence in the country’s political stability.
Can we say now that Thaksin is not the patriot he claims to be? During his phone-in yesterday, he claimed loyalty to the monarchy. It was the usual posturing and hypocrisy in a class of its own. This could only be done by somebody with such exceptional guile and sinister motives.
The red shirts are aware that their past miscalculations and the riots they started in April remain big wounds in the country’s side. The petition, symbolic in nature, is what Thaksin wants, though he refuses to give up on his vain hope of regaining power.
The ringleaders will be amply rewarded financially for a job well done. Organising the rallies has become a lucrative boon to them, and the fugitive himself must not mind the expense if he wants them to carry out even more damaging assignments to destabilise the Abhisit government.
Does Thaksin know that the entire nation suffers from his political game? There remain uncertainties on many fronts due to the unending destabilisation campaigns. The economic crisis is still a threat, despite the government’s rescue measures. swine flu continues to spread and claim more victims.
If the criminal believes that the country should be trapped in misery as long as his problem is not resolved, then Prime Minister Abhisit should work out a new strategy to lead the country out of this mess. For sure, Thaksin will not stop his game simply because he has no other choice.
By Sopon Onkgara
Published on August 18, 2009