Thaksin has poisoned his drinking well

Sunday, August 17, 2008 by Editor

"Poisoned trees, poisoned fruits.''

So said former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in his handwritten statement issued last week in London to inform the Thai judiciary and all his supporters that he would not come back in the near future to stand trial on the corruption and malfeasance charges brought against him by either the Office of the Attorney-General or the now defunct Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC).

Mr Thaksin, who is now a fugitive on the run since an arrest warrant was issued against him by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, did not elaborate on the message he intended to convey with the poisoned trees, poisoned fruits comment.

But it is widely understood that he meant the existing constitution, crafted by an assembly appointed by the military junta which ousted him from power two years ago, and the ASC are the poisoned fruit.

In the narrow mindset of the ex-premier, his cronies and members of the People Power party (PPP), certain provisions of the charter were drafted with the intention of clipping the wings of Mr Thaksin and going after his assets.

The charter and the ASC have been blamed for the misfortune befalling Mr Thaksin, his family and the PPP.

Which explains why his faithful followers in the PPP have persistently attempted to rewrite the charter to remove all these ''unfair'' provisions. The recent failed attempt by party members to amend a clause to ban street protests that were not first granted permission from authorities was apparently just a diversion to distract public attention away from other amendments.

But for Mr Thaksin's opponents, he was seen as the poisoned tree and the actual cause of all the political ills affecting the country for the past couple of years.

He was regarded as the unpredictable mutated product of the so-called People's Constitution, the 1997 charter which was thrown out by the junta.

Mr Thaksin and his cronies had taken full advantage of loopholes in the 1997 charter for their vested interests. They managed to dominate the House and the Senate through money politics and also managed to cripple the checks-and-balances mechanisms in the charter.

The former Election Commission, headed by Pol Gen Vassana Permlarp, for instance, was a complete farce and a sham. The Senate, which was supposed to maintain checks on the Thaksin regime, was useless.

Only the judiciary managed to escape Mr Thaksin's power grab and still remains independent from political interference.

The conviction of his wife, Khunying Potjaman, her half-brother Bannapot Damapong and private secretary Kanchana Honghern for tax evasion by the Criminal Court and the trial of Mr Thaksin by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders on the Ratchadaphisek land scandal should testify to the judiciary's independence and its new role as a checks-and-balances mechanism against political abuses while the legislature has become dysfunctional.

Thus it came as no surprise Mr Thaksin picked the fight against the judiciary the day he escaped to London instead of returning home to stand trial on the land controversy.

In his statement, Mr Thaksin accused the judiciary of being biased against him and of adopting a double standard.

In a quick response, the court issued an arrest warrant for him and his wife.

Mr Thaksin could have laid low and avoided offending the judiciary with his self-serving criticism. Probably at the moment of desperation while he was writing his statement, he thought his day would come some day in the future that he would be coming back in a triumphant manner and deal with what he alleged was a biased justice system.

But for the time being, he has different status. That of a fugitive.


Veera Prateepchaikul is Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Post Publishing Co Ltd.