TUESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2010 15:04 JAMES O’TOOLE AND CHEANG SOKHA
FUGITIVE Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is reportedly considering establishing a government in exile, following a series of high-profile visits to Cambodia in his capacity as government economics adviser.
Speaking to his Red Shirt supporters in Thailand by videoconference on Saturday, Thaksin said he planned to set up a government in exile soon, the Bangkok Post reported. Thaksin said Monday, though, that he would act only in the event of a coup, according to Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper.
“If a coup is staged, we will form a government in exile together. Now, I have not set it up yet. I must wait for a coup to take place first,” Thaksin reportedly wrote on his Twitter feed.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he will wait for a new government to be set up in Thailand before normalising relations, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong declined to say whether Cambodia would play host to a Thaksin-led government in exile.
“We cannot comment on this now because it is not official information, and there is no official request directly made from Thaksin. Thaksin has travelled during his exile to many countries in the world, not just Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn declined to comment on the issue. Thailand issued a request for Thaksin’s extradition in November, during the fugitive billionaire’s first visit to Cambodia as a government adviser, that was summarily denied by Cambodian officials.
“A government in exile is a matter of the host country, so we have no position on that, but what we are here is … a legitimate government and a member of the United Nations,” Panitan said.
Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup and went into exile in 2008 to avoid a prison term for corruption charges, has incensed the Abhisit government and exacerbated tensions in Thai-Cambodian relations with his visits to the Kingdom in recent months.
In a November 16 letter to Abhisit, leaked through the Thai opposition last month and posted in English translation on Thaksin’s Web site, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya addressed the possibility of a Thaksin-led government in exile.
In the letter, Kasit urged caution and pressed for “the normalisation of Thai-Cambodian relations”, though he added that military action could be warranted in several “worst-case scenarios” in which Thailand’s sovereignty is threatened, including Thaksin’s establishment of a government in exile in Cambodia.
Panitan said Monday that there was no reason to doubt the stability of the Thai government, despite large-scale rallies planned by the populist Red Shirts and fears of a conservative coup by the Thai military.
“Since last year, we’ve assured the international community that civility and law and order will be upheld, and we have done so,” Panitan said.