Exclusive: Thaksin urges snap poll to end Thai crisis

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (BestGrowthStock) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva must dissolve parliament immediately and call a snap election to end a tense standoff between troops and protesters, fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra said on Monday.

“The political crisis must be resolved by political means and the only way is for Abhisit to dissolve parliament and call a snap election,” Thaksin told Reuters in an telephone interview during a brief stopover in Brunei after a trip from Fiji.

Thaksin said Abhisit’s resistance to demands by “red shirt” protesters, who have occupied key parts of central Bangkok for more than 5 weeks, means he intends to order a crackdown on protesters or a coup.

“Launching a coup wouldn’t be an easy thing like in the past, as it will face a lot of resistance from the people,” said the 60-year-old telecoms billionaire, still the only Thai prime minister to win two consecutive elections, both by landslides.

Analysts say cracks in the armed forces along the country’s color-coded fault lines have the top brass worried about leaks and unsure of who to trust. Speculation is growing hardliners may try to stage a coup to end the five-year political crisis.

Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless 2006 coup, said he had stopped speaking by telephone and video links at red shirt rallies in Bangkok over the past couple of weeks because the movement had gone beyond fighting for his cause.

“Initially, people were fighting for me, who they felt was unfairly treated, but now more and more people are fighting for justice and democracy. They don’t want the elite to keep interfering in democracy,” Thaksin said.

REVOLUTIONISED POLITICS

The former policeman has been living abroad to avoid jail after being convicted in 2008 on graft charges, which his supporters saw as an attempt to keep him from holding office.

They say he revolutionized Thai politics with pro-business reforms and populist policies aimed at eradicating poverty. Critics accuse him of authoritarianism, crony capitalism and of trying to undermine the monarchy.

Thailand’s top court in February seized $1.4 billion of his family’s assets for abuse of his power, or about half of his wealth, but it was far less than expected.

Born into a family of ethnic Chinese silk merchants in 1949 in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin became a policeman in 1973 before winning a state scholarship to study for a masters degree in criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University.

He took a doctorate in that subject from Sam Houston State University in Texas and taught at the Thai Police Cadet Academy.

In 1987 he went into business, establishing a small computer dealership with his wife Potjaman, selling hardware to the police force. The company evolved into Shin Corp, a conglomerate with interests ranging from mobile phones to satellites and the media.

Thaksin said he has no plans to return to Thailand as long as his opponents are trying to “hunt me down.”

“I have no reason to return to Thailand now. I am happy living overseas, making money with friends.”

He also denied rumors reported in the Thai media that he was suffering from cancer. “I am healthy. I wasn’t gravely ill as rumored by some wicked people.”

Stock Market Report

(Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Exclusive: Thaksin urges snap poll to end Thai crisis