This week’s news that, only one week after Thaksin Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck officially became prime minister of Thailand, the Thai government is working to rehabilitate Thaksin, does not bode well for Thai politics. The new foreign minister, who has little experience in foreign affairs but is seen as close to Thaksin, apparently has pushed to help Thaksin travel more freely, including to Japan, even though in theory he is a fugitive from justice in Thailand. Inside the Puea Thai Party, meanwhile, many sources say that Thaksin’s allies are pushing to have him return to Thailand by the fall or early winter, when his daughter is scheduled to be married.
To be fair, Thaksin’s charges were hardly unbiased – he was charged with corruption by a court after being deposed by a coup, and in an environment in which the Bangkok elite, including the judiciary, were rabidly anti-Thaksin. It is possible that in a fair trial (which is almost an oxymoron in Thailand), he would be acquitted. Still, as I noted in my previous posting, whether or not Thaksin was mistreated in 2006 and afterwards, he – and his sister – have to have enough sense to realize that he remains a lightning rod that could scuttle Puea Thai’s efforts at fostering reconciliation. These efforts include Yingluck’s currying of favor with the palace and an apparent willingness to avoid army reshuffles, as well as to allow the military its ever-increasing budget requests. Right now, however, Thaksin, a natural politician who can never feel comfortable in exile, does not seem to realize that he could ruin his party’s own success.