Assassination claim manipulated for political gain

opinion November 13, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

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Allegations that foreign suspects wanted to kill former premier Thaksin Shinawatra have been used for the benefit of certain parties


Now that the dust has settled, it has became clear that the recent claim that someone was out to assassinate fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was greatly politicised, demonstrating once again that our policy-makers have no qualms about compromising national security for political gain.
First, it was Thaksin’s son, Panthongtae, who went on Facebook to claim that his father had to cancel a planned trip to Myanmar’s border town of Tachilek, where he planned to meet his red-shirt supporters.
According to the son, somebody was out to kill his father, and the recent arrest of a Myanmar national with weapons including an RPG launcher was tied into that allegation. 
Panthongtae’s claim was backed up by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung.
Defence Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat, sensing where this circus was heading, decided to stay out of it completely. “You must ask for more information from Panthongtae, as I have no idea,” Sukampol replied to reporters when asked about the claim.
Then came Thaksin’s legal adviser, Noppadon Patama, who suggested that drug lords in Myanmar might want to kill Thaksin because of his 2003 “war on drugs”. But that controversial “war” left only Thai citizens dead – about 2,500 of them. The then-Thaksin government said all the killings, with the exception of one or two, involved drug dealers killing each other.
The fact that the global community condemned that campaign has forced many to wonder why Noppadon would even try to use that episode to make his boss look good.
More doubt was cast on Panthongtae’s claim when National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr made an abrupt about-face over the alleged plot. Last week Paradorn told reporters one morning that there was no evidence for the assassination plot, but later in the day he changed his tune after he had been summoned to a meeting with Deputy Premier Chalerm. 
A bigger setback was the Wall Street Journal quoting Myanmar Police Major Min Kyaw Thu as saying, the arrest of the Myanmar citizen in Tachilek with weapons “has nothing to do with Thaksin. There is absolutely no plot to assassinate Thaksin.” The police major was quoted as saying that the case was related to drugs and that it was still being investigated. 
This is not about a sloppy public-relations exercise between top government officials and the public. It’s about trying to spin something for political gain at the expense of national security. 
Security issues should not be twisted and bent just to benefit one man, because when political leaders do so, they compromise the nation’s security. Security and intelligence officers need to be free from government interference so they can deliver sound analysis of the situation.
But if they are so eager to please the big bosses by any means necessary, perhaps they should compare notes before they go public with their claims and statements. 
It’s amazing how the NSC chief, a strong ally of the Thaksin camp, could change his mind so completely within just a few hours. 
Yes, Thaksin has a lot of enemies. Was it drug barons plotting to kill him, as suggested by Noppadon, or was someone in Thailand?
This is not the first time we have heard such assassination claims. While Thaksin was in power, there was a claim by the then-police chief, Pol General Sant Saruthanond. In March 2003 he said the United Wa State Army wanted to kill Thaksin. The Wa group’s Bao Yu-xiang was quick to dismiss the claim because, understandably, he wanted to be friends with Thaksin and Thailand. Bao didn’t trust the Myanmar government and wanted to secure an economic lifeline for his people in their autonomous territory in the Golden Triangle.
Eventually, Bao succeeded somewhat. Thaksin, with the support of Myanmar’s then-security tsar Khin Nyunt, gave the go-ahead for Thai military and development officials to support the Yongkha crop-substitution project in Wa Army-controlled territory near the border. With an initiative like that, one wondered what the anti-drug hoopla coming from Thaksin’s mouth was really all about in the first place.