Thailand: Will the Shinawatras take a break from politics?
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Thailand: Will the Shinawatras take a break from politics?

The Bangkok Post in March 2014:

Another source in the Democrat Party said Mr Abhisit has come up with his “model” for caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the network of Thaksin’s allies to take a break from politics for at least a year.

Under the model, efforts must be made to establish a council to initiate national reform. Reform proposals will then be put to a national referendum.

If these reform proposals are endorsed at the referendum, they will be tabled to political parties which will be elected in a general election so the newly elected MPs can enact the reform proposals into law, the source said.

The source also said key Pheu Thai figures had also come up with conditions that if Shinawatra family members and the network of Thaksin’s allies steer clear of politics, the PDRC must also end its rallies immediately and the Democrats must contest the fresh poll immediately.

BP: Who will be on the Council?

Thai Rath on March 27, the front page had the headline Shinawatra shutdown; Yingluck retreats; to take break from [running] in election (‘ชินวัตร’ชัตดาวน์ ‘ปู’ก็ถอย เว้นวรรคเลือกตั้ง). The article states that order to remove the charge that the Shinawatras have seized the country the family, including Yaowapha, will not contest the election whether on party list or constituency seat. Yingluck requests to secretly negotiate with representatives of political parties on the other side and the EC. If all sides agree to the conditions then Yingluck will announce she will not contest the election immediately.

Thai Rath‘s political analysis on March 28 reported that Puea Thai leaders had met with Thaksin who had decided that Pongthep, Deputy PM, would run as No. 1 on the party-list in order to prepare to be PM and reform the country for one year. Under this plan, Yingluck and the Shinawatras would not run in the election. This is a term in the secret negotiation with the other side. Those in the Puea Thai camp don’t believe Yinguck would do this. Those on PDRC side don’t view that Suthep would accept this condition. Yingluck refused to answer, but didn’t deny when asked.

The Nation on March 28:

Noppadon Pattama, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s legal adviser, has dismissed as groundless reports that Thaksin ordered caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra to take a year’s break from politics to pave the way for political negotiations.

Noppadon said he had checked with Thaksin, who denied the reports. The adviser said there had not yet been any discussion over whether Yingluck would run in the new election or be fielded as Pheu Thai’s No 1 party-list candidate. It is not the time to discuss the matter, because a Royal Decree to call a general election has not been promulgated, he said.

The sources said caretaker Deputy PM Phongthep Thepkanjana would take the No 1 spot instead, and that Thaksin’s sister Yaowapa Wongsawat would not contest the election either.

This plan was reportedly intended to dispel criticism that the country is under the domination of the Shinawatra family.

The reported move to take a step back was also seen as an attempt to counter any possible coup.

Another reason given was to push for national reform to be achieved in one year.

Yingluck will not resign as PM until a new government is formed, according to the sources. She would hold closed-door meetings with representatives of her political rivals and the Election Commission, and would expect to reach an agreement before the NACC’s decision on the rice-pledging scheme.

BP: Then the story disappeared for a while.

Thai Rath‘s political analysis on April 17 referred to Yingluck visiting Banharn in Suphanburi and noted that Agriculture Minister and Deputy PM Yukol Limlamthong, Deputy PM and Agriculture Minister under Chart Thai Pattana’s quota, will move up to be a higher ranking Deputy PM, but that Thaksin and those in the family have less faith in outsiders. There is the name of Varathep, Deputy Agriculture Minister and PM Office Minister.

BP: As noted in the scenarios post on a possible Acting PM:

PM must be an MP under the Constitution (Section 171) so Scenarios 3 and 4 face this obstacle, but taking leave happened in 2006 under Thaksin so is theoretically possible again with one of the Deputy PM’s being made Acting PM. Most likely Deputy PM is Yukol Limlamthong who is from Chart Thai Pattana (Banharn’s party). Yukol was a career civil servant from Ministry of Agriculture rising to be the Permanent Secretary (most senior civil servant in the Ministry) before retiring and becoming the Minister and also Deputy PM so while he is not known really known, he also doesn’t have too much political baggage. More importantly, the Acting PM is not only not a Shinwatra, it is not someone from Puea Thai.

BP: In terms of a conciliatory measure, it will be unwise to choose another Shinawatra family member as acting PM. Varathep and Pongthep – both of who were not Cabinet Ministers at the time of the Thawil transfer so the risk of them losing their political positions after the Constitution Court decision regarding the Thawil transfer is lower – would be better choices, but Yukol as acting PM would be a more politically sensible until the election.

Then, on April 21, from the front page of Thai Rath, the lead story is ชินวัตร’พร้อมถอย จะวางมือ ทักษิณส่งสัญญาณ (Shinawatras ready to retreat; to withdraw; Thaksin sends a signal).

From Page 10 inside the paper, a translated excerpt is below:

Thaksin sends a signal; worried about bloodshed (“ทักษิณ” ส่งสัญญาณหวั่นนองเลือด)

From the Thaksin movement, there are continuous reports during the Songkran period until last week that Thaksin was still in Beijing in China. Former Puea Thai MPs and Ministers including those close to him, travelled there, met him, and discussed the political situation. Thaksin expressed concern about the political situation and thinks that there is a likelihood of violence and sent a signal to the reds to cease any confrontation with the opposite side, but to express themselves fully as he believes society starts to know what is what. The decisions by independent agencies and the Constitutional Court will cause them to be not accepted because of the deterioration [of their reputation]. He also told those close to him that if all sides return to justice then asks for everything to be and for there to be peace then the Shinawatra family will cease to be in politics.

The Economist on April 26:

Even if she survives these legal challenges, she may not stand as Pheu Thai’s leader in the next election, whenever it is held. Having no Shinawatra as leader would be an obvious way to defuse some of the tension. Prasert Patanaponpaiboon of Pheu Thai says many in the party think she should step down temporarily in favour of a leader less close to Mr Thaksin.

The Bangkok Post:

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva announced on Thursday he will not stand for election if all sides accept his proposal for reform, to show there is no hidden agenda in his campaign to talk all sides into ending the political deadlock.

”Let me announce my clear position. If all sides accept my proposal, I will not run in the next election,” he said in a statement.

He was taking this stance to demonstrate his determination to support reform, with no desire for any political position.

He did not say whether his party would contest the polls.

BP: Given Suthep has rejected negotiation all sides won’t agree, right? All the talk so far has been of a one year reform government after the upcoming elections so we can have the Shinawatras (given repeated hints that they won’t run as part of any deal for there to be elections) not contest the election as long as the Democrats agree to contest the election. However, we may also have Abhisit not contest the election, but as noted by Thai Rath today one of the reasons for Abhisit to take a break is to avoid the accusation as made by the PAD regarding the “Oxford deal” negotiated by Korn and Potjaman [Thaksin’s ex-wife] whereby Abhisit would be the reform head (ตามที่คนในเครือข่ายขาใหญ่พันธมิตรฯออกมาแฉ “ออกซ์ฟอร์ดดีล” ของกรณ์ จาติกวนิช ที่เปิดเจรจากับ “นายหญิงจันทร์ส่องหล้า” เปิดทาง “อภิสิทธิ์” เป็น “ผู้นำปฏิรูป” ในเงื่อนเวลาจำกัด).

Now, we just wait for the other conditions in Abhisit’s proposal which we will get details of within the next day or so….