Thai ex-premier says ruling junta seeks 'backward democracy'

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 1:12 AM
Thai ex-premier says ruling junta seeks 'backward democracy'

NEW YORK (AP) — Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006, has accused the ruling junta of trying to push through a new constitution designed to limit democracy.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday after an event at the World Policy Institute, Thaksin also wished a long life to Thailand's ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

After dismissing Thaksin and seizing power, the military held elections in 2007, which Thaksin's party won easily. But after a series of political upheavels, during which Thaksin fled the country, new elections were held in 2011 that also were won by Thaksin's party led by his sister, who became the prime minister.

But her government was removed in a 2014 coup by the military, which is now drafting a constitution that allows for an unelected prime minister and proposes giving wide powers to the Constitutional Court and appointing an unelected Senate. Coup leader Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised to hold elections by the end of 2017.

Thaksin said any elections held under the new constitution will deny the will of the majority of the people. "That is backward democracy," he said. "Under democracy, you have to give the power to the people."

He said Thais are very patient people, and were willing to believe the military when it said it is taking over power to "reconcile the differences of the people in the country."

"But so far, one-and-a-half years (later), they have nothing (to show for) on reconciliation," he said, adding that in fact the opposite is true. The military rulers are "only trying to use the law to benefit their own politics."

Thaksin was convicted of corruption in absentia in 2008 and sentenced to two years in jail. His passport was revoked, and he now travels on passports from Montenegro and Nicaragua. His sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, has also been charged with alleged mismanagement of a rice subsidy program for which she faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Thaksin, 66, said he speaks to Yingluck "quite often, but everyone knows this is the only case in the world" where a prime minister has been prosecuted over a policy, which has effectively banned her from politics for five years.

"This is really ridiculous and we worry about the justice that she will receive," he said.

Thaksin said he misses home but is not really in a rush to return.

"I wish I can go (home). I'm quite settled outside Thailand and if I go back to Thailand it should benefit the country and the people. Otherwise I'm not really serious about going back," said Thaksin, who lives in the United Arab Emirates.

It was an attempt by Yingluck's government to push a plan for an amnesty bill that would have allowed her brother to return to Thailand that triggered the 2014 coup.