Thaksin's only son Panthongtae 'Oak' formally joins main opposition Puea Thai party

Panthongtae Shinawatra said he would travel across the country to meet the people to invite them to join Thailand's main opposition party Puea Thai.
Panthongtae Shinawatra said he would travel across the country to meet the people to invite them to join Thailand's main opposition party Puea Thai.PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK - After being on the sidelines for years, the only son of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has decided to formally join Thailand's main opposition party Puea Thai, reported local media.

Panthongtae Shinawatra, better known by his nickname "Oak", posted on his Facebook on Sunday (Nov 25) a receipt of his Puea Thai party's membership against a background showing an image of Martin Luther King Jr and the latter's famous quote: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

He wrote that as Thaksin's son, he could not afford to flip-flop because there are only two options for him - to stay quiet and wait to be hunted down, or "move forward with faith and ideology".

The 38-year-old said his father had been sentenced to imprisonment for approving his mother Khunying Potjaman's bid for a land plot while he himself is facing charges of money laundering, reported Thai broadcaster PBS World.

Panthongtae was indicted by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) last month over a cheque worth 10 million baht (S$415,000) tied to wrongfully approved KTB loans to subsidiaries of property firm Krisda Mahanakorn during Thaksin's term.

Panthongtae has denied the charges.

He added in his post on Sunday that other family members will face charges based on what he claimed to be false evidence and testimonies from some witnesses.

 
 
 

Referring to the defections of several Puea Thai lawmakers, Panthongtae said some of them have quit to save their future and their families, but others resigned out of vested interests, reported Thai media.

Panthongtae said he would travel across the country to meet the people to invite them to join the party.

Several former lawmakers from Puea Thai have left the party to join the new pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and has since lived in self-imposed exile to avoid a graft conviction in 2008 which he says was politically motivated. He faces separate corruption charges from 2008 and 2012.

Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra won a landslide victory in the 2011 election but was unseated by a court ruling shortly before the 2014 coup.

She fled Thailand in August last year before being convicted of criminal negligence in absentia.

Earlier this month, relatives and allies of the two ousted Thai premiers formed a new political party called Thai Raksa Chart Party. Its members include Thaksin and Yingluck's nephew and niece, close aides, and the younger generation of the Shinawatra clan's political allies.

"It's a political strategy for Puea Thai under the new electoral system to win more seats," political scientist Yuttaporn Issarachai told Reuters. He said the party would also serve as a "backup" should Puea Thai be dissolved.

Puea Thai and its previous iterations - with support massed in northern and north-east Thailand - remains Thailand's most electorally successful political entity in recent years, having repeatedly won elections since 2001.

This despite the fact that the group in one form or another has been dissolved or seen its leaders forced out of office.

The military government, which came to power after a 2014 coup, has promised to hold an election between February and May next year.

The race is set to be a contest between supporters of the military and royalist establishment and populist forces led by the Puea Thai Party that was ousted in the 2014 coup.