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Home > Opinion > Normalcy but not at any cost

Normalcy but not at any cost

Thaksin must be held accountable for his misrule and trangressions, and that is not negotiable

Social activist Prawase Wasi's call for a negotiated end to the ongoing political crisis - which would involve pro-Thaksin protest leaders, the interim Surayud government and members of the Council for National Security (CNS) - may sound deceptively like a good idea. After all, what could be so wrong about taking the so-called "middle path" to try to end potentially violent confrontation and bring about national reconciliation? Nothing except that any such move must lead all parties to agree to accept the concepts of the supremacy of the rule of law and politicians' public accountability, which underpin democracy.

The rule of law and public accountability require that deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, along with his Thai Rak Thai Party executives, pay for electoral fraud by being stripped, for five years, of their political rights to seek public office. This is not to mention a host of other alleged corruption offences that took place under his watch and which are now pending court proceedings.

Prawase and anyone interested in applying his proposal in the run-up to the general election scheduled for late November or early December should be reminded that the ongoing political crisis did not happen out of the blue.

Anyone with a sufficiently long memory will recall that Thaksin blasted onto the scene in 2001 as leader of Thai Rak Thai, captured an unprecedented parliamentary majority at the first try, and became prime minister. Through ruthless machinations, including skilful manipulation of populist policies, Thaksin achieved absolute power to run the country as he saw fit.

Instead of using the enormous power - that no other elected political leader in this country has ever been granted - honestly and responsibly, Thaksin proceeded to undermine all democratic institutions, intimidate the bureaucracy into submission, muzzle the media and bend rules and regulations to further his gain at the expense of the public interest.

Despite a series of corruption scandals towards the end of his first term, Thaksin managed to score another landslide victory in the 2005 election. He was about to perpetuate his hold on power when he made the ultimate self-serving deal in selling off his family's controlling stake in Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holdings for a tax-free profit of Bt73.3 billion.

That fateful deal proved to be his undoing because it galvanised the urban middle-class to rise up against him. The rest is history. Thaksin was toppled by the military on September 19, 2006, which has since suspended democracy as we know it.

This newspaper has, from the beginning, called the coup staged by the military a necessary evil. But the CNS has so far honoured its promises and adhered to its time-frame to restore full democracy by the end of this year. It has appointed an interim government, created a National Legislative Assembly, established a Constitution Drafting Assembly, prosecuted alleged cases of corruption by Thaksin and his cronies, and implemented reform programmes.

Everything was proceeding the way it should until Thaksin felt the heat when he and 111 Thai Rak Thai executives were barred from politics for five years, followed by a freeze of Thaksin's assets pending court proceedings on corruption cases. That's when anti-military protesters sprang up in Bangkok and began in earnest to stir things up with their provocation and unruly behaviour.

Although there must be people who are genuinely against the current military rule, the majority of anti-military protesters appear to have been organised, if not also paid for, by Thaksin and his loyal party cadres. Prawase's idea will only be workable when the leaders of the anti-military demonstrations can be identified and it can be proved that they are not proxies doing Thaksin's bidding.

The anti-military protesters have made it clear they want everything to go back to the state it was in before the coup took place. This means Thaksin would be subjected to no corruption investigation, the same loophole-ridden constitution would continue to be in force, and Thaksin would be about to stage a comeback as prime minister.

Certainly this is not a path toward reconciliation and democracy but rather a road to get Thaksin off the hook for his transgressions and stage a vengeful comeback.

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