Wednesday, 6 July 2011

'Thaksin case to be reviewed'

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Yingluck tells CNN that reopening it is part of national reconciliation; Abhisit warns that including others will not hide true purpose

Prime minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra, speaking on the most explosive issue facing her incoming government for the first time since her party's election victory, has told CNN her big brother's case will be reopened and reviewed "along with others" as part of national reconciliation.

The issue appears to have changed from the original idea of giving a blanket political amnesty for the sake of national reconciliation to a process of reviewing cases first before further action can be taken.

In the interview, Yingluck did not clarify whether or how the latest plan might affect normal judicial authority.

Yingluck told the US news network that she would not encourage Thaksin Shinawatra to come back and serve his two-year jail sentence. "Let's start with the principle of the rule of law first. [We must] make sure that everyone will be treated on equal basis," she said.

"Are you saying that his case along with others will be looked into - will be investigated again?" asked the CNN interviewer.

"Yes," Yingluck replied, but added: "His will be one of the cases." She insisted that the bottom line would be that the process and its results would be fair to everyone.

Asked later by Thai reporters whether her interview comment meant the amnesty plan for Thaksin was still on, Yingluck maintained the Pheu Thai Party's ambiguous line.

"I didn't mean it that way," she said. "Bringing him back is not the main point. Our policy is not meant for any particular person. Everything will have to wait for the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which will work independently towards reconciliation," she said.

Although the Pheu Thai Party has surprised critics by keeping the top reconciliation job in the hands of the Kanit na Nakorn panel, its chairman has expressed concern that the change of political guard could affect the committee's ongoing work. He has yet to react in detail to Yingluck's disclosure that legal cases that were part of Thailand's political crisis could be reopened for review.

Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday repeated his warning that an amnesty plan of any form would be bad for political peace.

"To help one man by also helping others is not different from helping him exclusively. Dragging others into it cannot hide the original purpose," Abhisit said.

Another troublesome issue facing Yingluck concerns red-shirt leaders on the Pheu Thai party list who have started laying claim to, or fighting for, Cabinet posts.

Some critics have said it seems all right for her to nominate red leaders for ministerial posts, citing the case of outgoing Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who took part in the takeover of Suvarnabhumi Airport in late 2008.

Red-shirt leader Nuttawut Saikua, who was rumoured to be jockeying for a Cabinet position, denied yesterday that he was aspiring for a ministerial portfolio. He admitted that he had called Thaksin, but only to congratulate the former prime minister on the poll victory.

Another red-shirt leader, Kwanchai Prai-pana, said Nuttawut should stay away from the Cabinet and instead serve as government spokesman to "protect" Yingluck.

"The one suitable to be in the Cabinet is Jatuporn Prompan, who is a red-shirt hero and who has parliamentary experience," Kwanchai said.

When asked to confirm yesterday's news reports that red leaders would be barred from the Cabinet to avoid causing an immediate image problem for the new government, Yingluck was elusive. "We have not gone as far as discussing that," she said.

Sirote Klampaiboon, a Mahidol University lecturer in politics and human rights, said he did not mind seeing red-shirt leaders in the Cabinet. "I'm more worried about people with vested business interests given government positions," he said.

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