Exiled former premier Thaksin says Thailand's election 'rigged' by junta

Former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that he was not sure the new government would be stable and sustainable for a full term. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - There is a lot of evidence that Thailand's first election since the military coup of 2014 was rigged, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in an interview.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the phone from Hong Kong yesterday, Thaksin said he believed both the Thai and international communities "know very well the irregularity of the result and the irregularity of how the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) behaved".

He cited, as an example, "the way they recorded the result and then they stopped and even the ECT chairman said they have to stop because there is no calculator".

"That is very, very sarcastic from the chairman of the ECT. I don't know, there might be someone who ordered him to stop. This is a lot of evidence of a rigged election," said Thaksin.

He was referring to commission chairman Ittiporn Boonprakong who, when asked on Sunday what the final results would be after the announcement that the results would be delayed, said, "I don't have a calculator with me now."

Thaksin added: "We accept that, okay, there may have been some kind of hope that the pro-democracy parties should have got more, but it's less, but anyway the rigged election must be clarified by the ECT."

He cited pictures from Phetchabun province, where "officials from ECT came and changed the ballot box and it was surrounded by the police... but the pictures have come out".

And he mentioned "some vote- buying in front of the poll station".

Opinions on social media after the election also indicated "the number of ballots exceed the number of voters that turned out".

"So a lot of the things that happened were very irregular," said the former premier.

Thaksin, a former policeman who became a billionaire telecoms magnate, became prime minister in 2001 when he won at the polls. He was toppled by the military early into his second term, in 2006.

He fled Thailand in 2008 ahead of a conviction for corruption.

The ECT said on Monday that the Pheu Thai Party - which is linked to Thaksin - had won 137 of 350 constituency seats in an initial tally.

This was followed by the military-backed Palang Pracharath Party, with 97 seats.

The count did not include 150 party-list seats, which meant either party would need to seek coalition partners to control Parliament.

Thaksin, when asked directly if he thought the election was free and fair, said: "No, no. You know, in any games, if the rules of the games, the referee are not fair, then the results will not be respected.

"This is even worse, because if we in Thailand have... a government that comes from a rigged election, the international (community) will not respect it."

When asked what the opposition's agenda should be, he said: "I don't know, you have to talk to them.

"As an observer, and as a supporter of the pro-democracy parties, I can comment only as a former prime minister who is still supporting democracy and wants to see the prosperity of Thailand. If we don't have a respected government, then how can we prosper? Economically we are not going to prosper."

When asked what the priorities of a new government should be, Thaksin said: "We have to revive the economy. You can see a lot of innovation and technology has changed economies in many countries, and we are not well prepared yet because we have wasted our time in disunity... and the rift between the people. So it's time Thailand should bring back unity and reform the economy."

But he said he was not sure whether the new government would be stable and sustainable for a full term. "Stability must come with hope. Stability without hope is no use."

When asked what risks there would be for the new government, he said: "The new government, they are the military junta before, so they have control over the military."

But he added: "Now is not the time for the military to get involved. Clearly, it is a time for the country to prosper; we have to be updating our economic policy in order to compete, otherwise the people will get poorer and poorer. We don't want to see Thailand like Egypt."

On his personal plans for the future, he said he was getting old - 70 this year - and "I may form a new party... Enjoy life party".

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