Little sympathy in London town

Saturday, August 23, 2008 by Editor

A random survey of Thais in the UK conducted by PATCHARIN WONGSATIEN failed to turn up much support for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's plea for political asylum.

Nike, president of the Thai Festival Organisation:

'I quite understand why they did it. If you're in that position, being used to power and having all the money in the world, would you care to spend time in prison? I don't think so.

"I think they are good people, but they were unfortunate to have had bad advice. I mean, when they went back to Thailand from exile last time, they should have kept a low profile in politics. Personally I think they should stand trial in the Thai courts, but they decided that they had to flee because they could not get a guarantee or assurance that the court would grant them bail. Otherwise, I don't think they would have left and made themselves fugitives in another country.

"From my point of view, the possible outcome facing the family if they were to fight all the charges in the Thai courts is dim. Evidence against them is very strong.

Personally, I don't think it was right that they violated the bail conditions, but for them it's the right move. They have witnessed their lawyers being sent to jail, and also the three-year prison sentence for Khunying Potjaman was enough to convince the family that perhaps it was time to go."

Kampol Nirawan, former political activist during October 14, 1973

student uprising:

'I believe Thaksin's self-imposed exile has put him at a disadvantage. Firstly, he would in effect strip himself of a chance to fight in court because the trial will go ahead in absentia. Secondly, his assets in Thailand will be seized and he also risks having his assets here restrained by a court order since Thai and British police have reciprocal agreement to co-operate in a criminal offence."

Siriruk, a city worker:

'I don't think Thaksin and his wife should have been allowed to leave the country in the first place to go to China, especially when Khunying Potjaman was in effect a convicted prisoner and their court cases were still pending. Personally I think Mr Thaksin, as former leader of the country, showed no respect for the Thai constitution.

"It's utter nonsense what he claimed - that he would not get a fair trial in the Thai justice system and there was not any hard evidence against him and his family. Seeking political asylum here is an easy escape. But I do hope that the English courts would see through him and refuse his application, because he is not facing a death sentence at home nor is his life in danger. The family is very lucky because they are so rich, they can afford to do anything. But they should not be above the law. What I believe is that what goes around comes around. Perhaps they cannot buy their way out of what has come around this time."

Parn, a city worker:

'In my opinion, I don't think his claim that he could not trust the Thai justice system is justifiable. It's more of a case of political miscalculation. After all, his wife has been through the trial in Thailand and has received a jail sentence. I think Thaksin could see that he would face the same fate. That was why they decided to flee.

"As for whether or not he would seek political asylum here, I think at the end of the day he will get away with everything. Look at Rakesh Saksena (fugitive Thai bank adviser), for example. He was never brought back to face trial in Thailand. Having said that, I don't really think Thaksin will apply for asylum here."

Malisa Butterworth, a businesswoman:

'It would be ridiculous if Thaksin and his wife are allowed to claim political asylum here. The 1951 United Nations refugee convention states clearly that the claimant must have a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, belief, political opinion or belong to a particular social group. The question for Thaksin and his wife is: do they fit into any of these categories?

"He (Thaksin) argued that he chose the UK because democracy means more here. But people can see it that the court proceedings in Thailand are carried out under the strict rules of constitution. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he and his wife are allowed to live here. After all, many former world leaders who abused their own people and violated human rights in their countries, like Augusto Pinochet (late dictator of Chile), were welcomed to the UK. Still, I believe its not a bad thing that he left Thailand. At least it helps reduce political temperature and conflicts there."

Supa Korprakong, Home Office employee:

'I don't think Thaksin should be granted political asylum here. It's obvious that he and his wife are trying to run away from the punishment they deserve. If they don't believe in the Thai justice system, why did they go back last time? They did because they thought their friends in the government could help them. Now they know their friends could not help, so they left to spare themselves a jail sentence. It's simple. There is nothing to do with the fairness of our judicial system.

"I feel sorry for Thailand and poor people. The family is so rich but they never want to give anything back to society. When Thaksin was in power, his policy was always for short-term gain. They should look up to Bill Gates. He is rich but he is willing to do something good for others in the world. Unlike Thaksin, whose only interest is to grab as much as he can and who thinks about nothing else except creating his image. He is getting what he deserves."