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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Thaksin's return is overdue : Yongyuth

In one of the clearest statements of intent from the Yingluck government in regard to the plan to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra, Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit yesterday defended the former PM's potential return as somewhat overdue.

The Pheu Thai Party leader told The Nation in an exclusive interview that when people slammed the new government for scrambling to bring Thaksin home, they forgot that "nothing happened" when his political enemies were in power."When justice is concerned, a one-day delay matters as much as any longer delay," he said. "If you look at it using the same old perspective, then this government is moving so quick in a bid to help Thaksin. But the fact that nothing happened under the previous government is overlooked."

Yongyuth reiterated Pheu Thai's argument that Thaksin's exile was a result of injustice that brought Thailand to the brink of a major national tragedy last year. Giving an analogy for the country's political divide, he said two trains - one an anti-Thaksin brigade and the other his grass-root supporters - brushed against each other last year, but they would definitely collide if nothing was done.

"These two trains are supposed to run, or even race, side by side. Undeniably, there are people who still don't like Thaksin, but their number has not increased or is even declining. The other side, on the other hand, is getting bigger and bigger in an alarming manner," he said, pointing to the July 3 poll result.

Asked how the government planned to bring back Thaksin, Yongyuth refused to elaborate, saying only that the Yingluck administration would not resort to legal changes or take any action that could be perceived as serving just one man.

He strongly implied that helping Thaksin would not be seen by the red shirts as using the election mandate to assist just one man. Absolving Thaksin had become a common symbol of justice for the reds, he said.

A high-ranking Pheu Thai source who is close to Thaksin backed Yongyuth, saying the rush to get the former PM home was linked to the party's election pledge. As well as promising economic and welfare programmes, Pheu Thai candidates won support because they promised people that a Pheu Thai government would make it a priority to bring Thaksin back, the source claimed.

The source said Thaksin still insists he will only return to Thailand if his jail sentence is revoked. "He always said he wouldn't spend even a day in prison, and that remains his stance as of today.

"Personally, I don't think Thaksin is ready to return right now, when a lot of matters are still waiting to be sorted out."

Legally speaking, the quickest way for Thaksin to return to Thailand is for him to be included in the annual royal pardon from His Majesty the King. Otherwise, the Yingluck government will have to include Thaksin in a blanket amnesty deal that benefits all involved in the Thai political crisis, a scheme that might need at least a year to complete.




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