Ousted former Thailand PM Thaksin says he has no plans to mobilise 'red shirt' supporters

Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he had no plans to mobilise his "red shirt" supporters, but called the first year of the junta government that came to power in a coup "not so impressive". -- PHOTO: BL
Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he had no plans to mobilise his "red shirt" supporters, but called the first year of the junta government that came to power in a coup "not so impressive". -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SEOUL (Reuters) - Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he had no plans to mobilise his "red shirt" supporters, but called the first year of the junta government that came to power in a coup "not so impressive".

Thaksin, who was in the South Korean capital for a rare public appearance as a conference panelist, also told Reuters there was no plan for his son, Oak, to take over the Puea Thai Party.

“No, we want to see the government be a success, but it’s difficult, as you can imagine,” Thaksin said on the sidelines of the conference, when asked if there were any plans to mobilise his “red shirt” supporters.

“It’s not so impressive yet,” he said of the first year of the military government. “They have to work harder. They have to understand the world, and the mentality of the people who have been in democracy for many years.

“I think democracy will prevail sooner or later, but we have to be patient, and we have to be peaceful,” he said. “Don’t resort to any kind of violence.”

He also told Asian governments the “rule of law” was key to democracy, as his sister appeared in a Bangkok court to plead not guilty to negligence over a costly rice subsidy policy during her stint as premier.

“The key to good governance and democracy is you have to strike a balance” between the judicial, legislative and executive branches, he said at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul.“And also you have to observe the rule of law, which is a very important asset for each country to be credible.”

"In every country there (are) two different societies, always: the rich and the poor, those who have opportunities and (those with) less opportunities,” he added.“We need to eradicate poverty, especially in emerging countries in order to let people choose the good politicians and keep a good democracy.”His comments did not specifically reference Thailand but are nonetheless likely to chime with his “red shirt” supporters.

Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said last week that he was not worried about Thaksin’s public appearance or whatever comments he might make.

Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail sentence handed down for graft in 2008, has rarely spoken about Thai politics since the military toppled the remnants of the government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a year ago.Yingluck was removed from office days before the army staged the 2014 coup after months of protests in Bangkok. She has since been banned from politics for five years, and faces a possible jail term over her role in a money losing rice subsidy scheme.

The military ousted Thaksin in 2006, exacerbating a sharp divide between his supporters in the poorer north and northeast and the traditional royalist-military establishment in the capital and the south.More than a decade of political strife has seen at times violent street protests from both Thaksin supporters and their opponents.With bases in Dubai and London, Thaksin travels frequently in Asia.