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exclusive interview

New Pheu Thai chief says he'll work to bring Thaksin home

Wants to see ex-PM back before govt's term ends; calls case 'political'

Bringing fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra back to the country within this government's term is one of Charupong Ruangsuwan's missions as Pheu Thai leader, the newly elected party chief conceded to The Nation during an exclusive interview yesterday.

"My [main] focus is not to get Thaksin home, but to help farmers, the grass roots," he said. "I want all the people who were treated unfairly to receive fairness. I don't want any double standards."

Initially, Charupong did not answer directly when asked if it was necessary to bring Thaksin back home before the end of this government's term. He said, however, that he believed Thaksin's case was political. Thaksin had become the target of a military coup because he had brought changes to the country and helped grass-roots people.

He went on to say that he would he do what he could to help, and hoped Thaksin could return, while declining to comment on whether he thought the former prime minister would have to face legal proceedings.

Charupong said he hoped Thaksin would be able to return within this government's term. However, he realised there was resistance, adding that Thaksin himself had said that if he thought he was really the cause of the conflicts in the country, he would not come back.

Thaksin left Thailand in 2008 before the Criminal Court sentenced him to two years in prison for his role in the Ratchadaphisek land scandal.

Charupong, a prominent member of the red-shirt movement, said he was not worried by the dissatisfaction expressed by Thida Thawornseth, chairwoman of United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), over red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan's failure to win a ministerial post in the latest Cabinet reshuffle.

Thida likened the Pheu Thai Party to a boat, and the UDD to water that could either support or sink it.

Charupong said: "The party can be the government. The party's supporters are not confined to the UDD. They come from many groups. Those whose ideology matches the party's are party members. Those who have views that are similar but not 100 per cent alike are allies. Therefore, the UDD comprises both our members and allies. There are many organisations that have agreed to promote democracy in the country.

"I'm not afraid that the UDD will topple the party; we will stay together," he said.


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