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Turn Left Thailand

Thailand: Prison sentence for ex-PM Thaksin. What does it mean?

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

October 22, 2008 -- The prison sentence handed down to ex-Thai prime minister Thaksin is just one part of the present Thai political crisis. I write this short piece because I have been contacted by both the BBC TV and radio to give a telephone interview, but on both occasions the telephone line went dead during the interview. Times like this can make us paranoid. It was probably a technical fault which just happened to occur twice.

Thaksin was found guilty of a ``conflict of interest'' because he was prime minister at the time when his wife bought a piece of land at a knock-down price from the Thai state. The land originated from bankruptcies due to the 1997 economic crisis. Earlier Prime Minister Samak was found guilty of appearing on a TV cooking program and forced to resign. Samak was head of the Peoples Power Party (PPP), the descendant of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) which was dissolved by the courts during the time of the military junta.

It is interesting to note that Thaksin's wife was not found guilty of any corruption by the courts, nor was the organisation that held the land auction. This means that there is no evidence that the price paid for the land was below market rates or artificially depressed.

Thailand: Democracy lost in shuffle between royalist `opposition' and Thaksin government

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

September 2, 2008, Bangkok -- For the past two or more years, especially since the September 2006 coup, Thai society has been hypnotised into forgetting about the real social and political issues. Instead, the whole of society and, most tragically, the social movements have been entranced by a fight between two factions of the Thai ruling class.

On the one side are the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, its successor the Peoples Power Party government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Opposing them are a loose collection of authoritarian royalists comprising the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the pro-coup royalist military, the pro-coup judiciary and the Democrat Party. The authoritarian royalists are not a unified body. They only share a collective interest in wiping out Thaksin’s party.

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