Temasek Holdings at centre of Thai political crisis

Thai PM defiant as outrage surges
The Nation
3 Feb 06

Senior Thai Rak Thai figures discuss if Thaksin should step down prior to Sondhi rally and who would take over.

The calls for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign over the questionable tax-free share deals involving his children grew in intensity yesterday with more academics and activist groups saying he had lost the legitimacy needed to rule.

While 129 academics and representatives of activist and civic groups signed a petition calling for Thaksin’s resignation yesterday, the Confederation for Democracy, lecturers of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science and academics in Khon Kaen province separately issued a similar demand.

Undaunted by the growing chorus of disapproval, Thaksin said he would continue in office regardless of what his critics said since he and his Thai Rak Thai Party had a political mandate stemming from the votes of 19 million people.

“They may have to wait until the next life to see me resign. Let the rules prevail as they are constituted,” he said. The public uproar over the prime minister’s tax-free sell-out of shares in Shin Corp to a Singapore-government investment arm is likely to be a major boost for an anti-Thaksin rally at the Royal Plaza tomorrow, which was planned prior to this latest controversy.

Media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul, who called the rally, is expected to take up the share-transaction scandal as the main subject for his attacks on Thaksin and pressure groups critical of the transactions are likely to join the rally to demonstrate their outrage.

Facing growing pressure, Thai Rak Thai Party leaders discussed solutions yesterday to prevent “political accidents”, including having Thaksin step down prior to the anti-government rally tomorrow, a source said.

An urgent meeting was called at Ban Chan Song La, Thaksin’s residence to analyse the political crisis after growing anti-government sentiment from the Shin Corp sell-off. At the tense meeting, a person known as one who Thaksin respects suggested that the prime minister resign as a pre-emptive move to stop the rally amid fears it could turn violent.

He believed that Sondhi could mobilise a formidable crowd in the capital after two
weeks touring the provinces to seek support. The meeting went into detail about which MPs would be best suited and who Thaksin would trust to take over his job.

However, other top party officials wanted more than just a face-lift, arguing a House dissolution was the only way out.

They disagreed over the method of having Thaksin resign, reasoning that it would not end the current conflicts because Thai Rak Thai Party would still be running the country. “Returning the mandate to the people would be the best solution so Thai Rak Thai Party can come back with legitimacy,” the source said.

Former university minister Suthep Attakorn said yesterday that 129 people, including himself, lecturers, politicians, activists, educators and businesspeople had signed a petition calling for Thaksin’s resignation over the questionable share deals involving his family.

“First, we wanted 99 names but the number has grown. Now we are open for more supporters,” he said, adding more people could write to PO Box 140, Klong Jan, Bangkok.

Those who signed the petition included Nakhon Ratchasima Senator Pichet Pattanachote, former Bangkok MP Chaiwat Sinsuwong and political activist Prasan Maruekhapitak, Suthep said.

The group wanted Thaksin to be ethical and show responsibility by quitting, he said, since under his lead the government had failed to honour the democratic principles of the Constitution and to suppress corruption.

Meanwhile, the Confederation for Democracy issued a statement demanding Thaksin’s resignation over the share transaction scandal. “The prime minister has entirely lost the legitimacy needed to lead the country and he must resign to save the country’s democracy,” the statement said.

In a related development, at least 18 lecturers from Chulalongkorn’s University’s Faculty of Political Science signed an open letter addressed to Thaksin, calling on him to resign over the share deals and other mistakes made by his government.

“The share transactions totally lack transparency and the prime minister has not served as a good example for the people by doing this,” the letter said. A group of academics in Khon Kaen province also issued a statement yesterday to demand Thaksin’s resignation, accusing him of being ethically unsuited to run the country.

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