CHIANGRAI TIMES – Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung on Thursday said he had figured out a way to get ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra home, but refused to say how as he wanted to keep it a surprise.
Mr Chalerm, however, said it would be with the help of the majority of the people who wanted Thaksin back.
Mr Chalerm made the comment when asked by reporters about Thaksin’s interview with Bloomberg Television anchor Rishaad Salamat in Seoul on Tuesday.
During the interview, Thaksin, who has been living abroad in self-imposed exile since 2008, expressed hope he would return to Thailand this year.
Asked if there was any possible way to get Thaksin home, Mr Chalerm said he already had a plan for that. However, he declined to disclose it, saying it would not be a surprise nor would create excitement if the move was unveiled now.
His return had nothing to do with any amendments to the 2007 Constitution. The nation needs reconciliation and it is time for all sides to face each other, he said.
Asked if Thaksin could return without being prosecuted, the outspoken deputy premier said he was not trying to imply that, but there was a way to bring him back with the help of the majority of the people and depended on the right time.
He refused to elaborate on how Thaksin would be spared from serving his sentence and insisted the move should be kept as a surprise.
Asked if his announcement was a test meant to judge how people would react to Thaksin’s possible return, Mr Chalerm denied it, saying only that it was normal for people to miss their home.
The veteran politician called on the media to understand and give justice to Thaksin by claiming that the ex-premier “did not commit any offence but instead happened to do what the law prohibited”.
Mr Chalerm was referring to the 772 million baht Ratchadapisek land case, for which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail by the Supreme Court in 2008.
He claimed Thaksin sought advice from the Bank of Thailand and was assured he could endorse the land purchase contract for his then wife Potjaman Na Pombejra. The endorsement later earned him a prison term for abuse of power. The Civil Court nullified the contract and ordered Ms Potjaman to return the land in exchange for the return of her money. But Thaksin’s critics continued to use the issue to attack him.
Mr Chalerm repeated what he said last year that since the sale of the land was nullified, Thaksin has done nothing wrong.
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Thailand’s Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra talks about his exile, and the outlook for the country’s recovery after floods last year caused the economy to shrink for the first time since 2009. Thaksin, 62, has lived overseas since fleeing a two-year jail sentence in 2008 for helping his wife buy land from the government. He spoke with Bloomberg’s Rishaad Salamat yesterday in Seoul. (Source: Bloomberg)