Noppadon denies any role by former premier; Prayut says referendum won't be held if it's not possible.
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday accused fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra of being the mastermind behind recent political moves that have been affecting the current military-led regime.
This is the first time the general has named Thaksin, who has been living in self-exile overseas in order to escape imprisonment at home.
Prayut reacted angrily when asked to state exactly who he thinks is behind the ongoing political moves, such as widespread criticism of the draft charter and protests over the detention of Pheu Thai Party politician Watana Muangsook.
“I just said that someone is plotting and funding this. Foreign lobbyists were hired. Who can be behind all this? It is Thaksin. I could be attacked for saying this,” said Prayut, who also leads the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order.
The PM suggested that a television station linked to Thaksin and the red-shirt movement loyal to him were behind the protest led by a small group of activists this week.
He claims the protesters were taken to the protest sites in vehicles provided by the TV station and the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
Despite his physical absence from the field of politics, Thaksin is believed to have maintained influence over Pheu Thai Party, which ruled the country before the military took over in May 2014.
Apart from activists protesting against Watana’s detention, his daughter has petitioned the United Nations, the European Union and the US Embassy in Bangkok, calling on them to determine whether her father’s rights were being violated.
Prayut said yesterday that some people appeared to be doing their best to keep the country in turmoil, which he said could lead to unrest in the run-up to the referendum on the draft charter and also the next general election.
When asked if the referendum would have to be cancelled, Prayut said, “We will not hold it if it is not possible,” noting that before the military coup, political unrest had also caused a planned general election to be cancelled.
“If people start clashing again, we will be back at Square 1 and what we have done will be wasted,” he added. Prayut said it would depend on the general public if they want to allow that, adding that it was not up to his government. “My duty is to enforce the law to maintain peace and order,” he said.
Earlier, the junta had suggested that the recent political moves had been well coordinated and involved people in the same group.
Meanwhile, Thaksin’s spokesman Noppadon Patama yesterday dismissed Prayut’s allegation that the former leader had hired lobbyists to campaign for foreign governments and organisations to act against Thailand.
Noppadon, a former legal adviser to Thaksin, issued a statement declaring that Thaksin was not behind the protests.
“Thaksin Shinawatra has not employed any lobbyists overseas,” he said. “He is not behind any government in exile.”
‘Small mouse living overseas’
He added that Thaksin “is just a small mouse living his life overseas, so he can’t have any influence on the standpoints of foreign countries and international organisations”.
Noppadon also called for “fair treatment” for Thaksin. “He has never regarded anyone as his enemy. He would like to see the country move forward and for reconciliation to take place and for Thais to become happy. He always loves and has good wishes towards Thailand and the Thai people,” Noppadon said.
In a related development, red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan yesterday rejected Prayut’s allegation that the UDD was behind the recent protests, saying the PM appeared to have obtained inaccurate information regarding this matter. “I can insist that nobody is behind the moves being made by Watana’s daughter and the protesting students,” he said, adding that he had instructed other red-shirt leaders to keep their distance from the activists, otherwise the protesters’ credibility could be undermined.