Quote of the Day: Kong Rithdee on Thaksin’s exile and planned return
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Quote of the Day: Kong Rithdee on Thaksin’s exile and planned return

Kong Rithdee in an op-ed in the Bangkok Post:

The flawed amnesty bill that would grant mass impunity to those who deserve trials and that would bring Thaksin home is now in the Senate – after the absurd marathon 19-hour parliamentary session that lasted until 4am yesterday, a proof of desperation on the part of Pheu Thai MPs who pushed the bill despite protests against it from all colours.

The ex-PM has the ball, but which narrative is he plotting for himself?

Thaksin was overthrown by unlawful forces, not at gunpoint but pretty close, but the real story is how he’s conspiring to return. That, and not the exile, will be a measure of his true self.

In his free time, Thaksin could study other high-profile exile-and-comeback narratives. After victorious expeditions in Europe and North Africa, Napoleon was declared a threat to peace and exiled to the island of Elba; there he plotted a return, escaped, braved an arrest, and marched back to Paris – only to go into battle again, was defeated at Waterloo and exiled again to St Helena (a worse place than Dubai). Lenin was exiled to Siberia (a prison term, actually) and later he was in a self-imposed exile in Europe before returning to lead the successful Bolshevik Revolution. Alberto Fujimori of Peru was exiled (fled) to Japan; his return to Peru was as an arrested man who would be tried and later jailed.

The scariest precedent however – I guess this is what’s on a lot of people’s minds, though no one speaks about it at the moment – is the tempestuous exile and return of Field Marshall Thanom Kittikajorn. Driven out after the Oct 14, 1973 uprising, Thanom’s return to Thailand as a novice monk three years later led to the horror of Oct 6, 1976, when right-wing factions massacred students at Thammasat University in a brutal episode that laid bare to witnesses not just the crime of murders, but of institutionalised hatred.

Which story was flashing through Thaksin’s mind when he pressed his MPs to push the blanket amnesty bill – that of Napoleon, Lenin, Fujimori or Thanom – we have no idea. Typical of his brash confidence, Thaksin probably believes he can write his own story that pans out unlike any other, especially now that he seems to be able to appease the force that once ousted him. His story, nevertheless, will also become history. Exile shrinks some people and aggrandises others. And courage, yes, can be easily confused with cunning, conspiracy, and plain cowardice.

BP: The bolded parts above are beautifully crafted particularly about the brash confidence of Thaksin and his plan for return, but wouldn’t former Pakistani PresidentĀ Benazir Bhutto (who went into exile after charges of corruption, stayed overseas for nine years, and was assassinated two months after her return), former Hondruan President Manuel Zelaya (who was president for three years before a coup removed him in 2009 with a deal being done to eventually allowed him to legally return in 2011 with his wife being a candidate inĀ the presidential race next month), or even former Argentine President Juan Peron (two-term president deposed in a coup and went into exile for 18 years before returning in 1973 and winning a third term before dying of a heart attack a year later) be more relevant examples of former leaders returning from exile than Lenin and Napoleon?