Thaksin’s deal with the establishment?
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Thaksin’s deal with the establishment?

Shawn Crispin last week in Asia Times wrote about an accommodation/deal reached with the establishment – btw, there are some other issues that Crispin raises, but they are best left for another day:

The calm before the proposed polls is the result of a behind-the-scenes accommodation reached late last year between Abhisit’s government and the royal Privy Council on one side and Thaksin’s camp on the other, according to a government aide with regular access to the premier. The first aspects of the multi-faceted deal were brokered in October, around the same time international mediators met with top Thaksin associates and government officials in Bangkok, according to the same insider.

The exact contours of the accommodation are unclear, and its not immediately certain that the international mediation effort, including interlocutions by a former top United States diplomat, were instrumental in the deal. But soon after high-level meetings between known Thaksin allies and international mediators, the string of anonymous bombings across Bangkok and surrounding areas came to an unexplained halt last October.

The bomb attacks commenced soon after a February 2010 Thai court decision to seize US$1.4 billion of $2.3 billion of Thaksin’s personal assets on corruption-related charges during his tenure as premier. Based on analysis of the targets hit, several diplomats and analysts interpreted the bombings as part of a campaign of instability to maintain Thaksin’s negotiating leverage vis-a-vis the government. Thaksin and his top lieutenants have denied responsibility for the attacks, while UDD leaders have consistently blamed them on unnamed dark forces in the military.

At around the time the bombings stopped, the government pulled back its previous vigorous pursuit of Thaksin’s extradition from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the former premier has resided since fleeing a two-year jail term handed down by a Thai court in August 2008.

Near the end of last year, Abhisit’s government also allowed Thaksin to repatriate a portion of the US$900 million that was not seized in last February’s landmark court decision, according to the insider familiar with the situation. The Ministry of Finance would neither confirm nor deny that Thaksin was allowed access to the funds.

At the same time, the UDD’s post-crackdown rallies in Bangkok have been comparatively tame and highly circumscribed, with events held around once a month and only until dark on weekends under the new leadership of Thida Thavornseth. Abhisit and Thida held what was billed as an impromptu meeting at a Bangkok hotel in mid-December that in retrospect hinted at the wider accommodation that had already been reached.

In late February, seven UDD leaders were released on bail and have since been allowed to continue moderated protest activities.

BP: This is not the first time we have heard about a deal, or as Crispin notes and is probably more accurate an accommodation or arrangement. Crispin on May 8, 2010 in Asia Times:

International mediators worked feverishly behind the scenes when the crisis threatened to spiral into wider civil strife, including the specter of an urban-style insurgency. It’s unclear what role, if any, a Swedish parliamentarian who facilitated previous talks and maintains close contacts with self-exiled former premier and UDD chief patron, Thaksin Shinawatra, played in the pact.

People familiar with one behind-the-scenes channel suggest talks were recently held in a Southeast Asian country that included Thaksin and a senior government representative. That would seemingly explain Abhisit’s sudden willingness to consider an amnesty for over 200 banned politicians, most formerly in Thaksin’s camp, and amendment to a constitutional article covering election fraud that has dissolved two Thaksin-aligned political parties and now threatens his own Democrat party.

As BP noted in a post on May 10, 2010 the government representative was Bangkok Governor and Deputy Leader of the Democrats Sukhumbhand Paribatra who met Thaksin in Brunei in April. Crispin on June 12, 2010 in Asia Times provided further details:

Skeptics believe that Thaksin’s veiled insurgency threat is for now posturing aimed at enhancing his negotiating leverage vis-a-vis the government. During secret talks between Thaksin and government negotiator Sukhumbhand Paribatra held in mid-April in Brunei, Thaksin lobbied for the return of his diplomatic passport and access to the hundreds of millions of dollars not confiscated by the Supreme Court ruling, according to a government source familiar with the discussions which were organized by a Swedish parliamentarian interlocutor.

(During a June 1 press event in Bangkok, Sukhumbhand would neither confirm nor deny whether the negotiations took place, but diplomats and other international mediators have confirmed that they did. Public recognition of Thaksin’s participation would seemingly undermine his recent disavowals of having any influence over the UDD’s activities.)

BP: Sukhumbahand just said at the time, when he spoke at the FCCT, that he would not do something with the knowledge of the PM. Okay, so BP has quite confident to say that the establishment and Thaksin were talking and one thing that Thaksin wanted was the return of his money that had not been seized. You may remember that the Thai court at the end of February 2010 had seized 46,373,687,454.74 Baht out of the Shinwatra family’s 76,621,603,061.05 Baht seized. This left Thaksin & Co with 30,247,915,606.31 Baht, but at the time this money was not returned immediately so hence negotiations were needed for Thaksin to get this portion of his family’s money back.

Now, there were plenty of stories early last year that small portions of the money was withdrawn,* but Crispin’s article is the first mention in the media that BP has seen that this was in exchange for something – a quid-pro-quo – and that Thaksin has transferred the money overseas  (did Thaksin used a different lawyer to arrange the transfer?).

Nevertheless, as Crispin mentions the freed red shirts, the meeting between Abhisit and two red shirt leaders, and together with the changing situation certainly does suggest  there does appear to be some arrangement/accommodation in place. However, this arrangement/accommodation does not mean that everyone will be nice to each other as there certainly has been no let-up from some establishment figures, particularly Army C-in-C Prayuth who has gone after all the red shirt leaders over lese majeste.

Also,  you have Thaksin’s lawyer trying to take Abhisit to the ICC. Nevertheless, how long will this arrangement/accommodation last? If an election takes place, will both sides respect the election result? Will there be a silent or or an actual military coup? All gloves may be off after the election, that is if we get an election….

* There is some uncertainty over the amount that Thaksin has got back – Crispin states in his article that it was only “a portion of the US$900 million” and well we don’t know whether this was a small portion or a big portion although BP would assume it was a significant amount