In the immediate aftermath of the coup, Thaksin’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam blogged :
Following the declaration of an illegal military coup by the Army of Thailand on Thursday, Robert Amsterdam, counsel to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the pro-democracy ‘Red Shirt’ movement, stated that active consideration is being given to the formation of a government in exile in the wake of the illegal seizure of power staged in Thailand by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha on May 22, 2014. Mr. Amsterdam reiterates that the actions of Thai military junta lack all legitimacy and constitute flagrant violations of both Thai and international law. The only organization in Thailand with a popular and legal mandate to govern remains the Pheu Thai Party, on the strength of its clear victory in the last full general election of July 3, 2011.
“The military coup carried out by the Army of Thailand does not have any legitimacy nor does the Army of Thailand have a mandate from the people of Thailand to govern the country. Those who have the mandate of the people of Thailand, secured through free and fair elections, are now considering the formation of a government in exile,” said Mr.Amsterdam.
Mr. Amsterdam also raised the question of the unlawful detentions of pro-democracy activists currently being rounded up by the junta stating that “I denounce the illegal detention of all political leaders in Thailand. Given the Thai Army of Thailand’s human rights record, we are extremely concerned for the safety of the political detainees, and we urge the international community to remain on high alert.”
Mr Amsterdam also stated that a number of foreign governments have already expressed their willingness to host such a government in exile under internationally established rules and practice. He emphasised that the Army of Thailand has no legal authority to govern and has acted in violation of both local and international law.
“Make no mistake, this is an illegitimate military coup that must be penalized with the full strength of sanctions and diplomatic measures to ensure the safety and security of the Thai people,” said Amsterdam
BP: One obvious location would have been Cambodia, but Hun Sen gave a clear ‘no’. The Bangkok Post:
“I would like to stress that Cambodia is not a place for any country or group to set up a government-in-exile,” Hun Sen said.
“Cambodia’s constitution does not allow any foreigners to use its territory as a base for armed forces to attack a government of another state,” he added.
The premier made no secret of his good and deep relations with both Thaksin and his younger sister, recently deposed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
He sought their understanding of his stance that Cambodia cannot “interfere into Thai internal politics.”
BP: No interference, “yeah right”, but one needs recognition from a government in exile. Now, Jakrapob as quoted in the Cambodia Daily:*
Leaders of the Thai pro-democracy “red shirt” movement will this month create an organization on foreign soil to oppose the latest military junta in Bangkok, but will steer clear of Cambodia, according to Jakrapob Penkair, an exiled founding member of the group.
He added that the organization would be based in a Western country for diplomatic reasons and could lead to a government-in-exile.
“A government-in-exile, for us, is a natural process,” Mr. Jakrapob explained in his email. “When our organization is well-received internationally, the presence of such government is almost automatic.”
“We are in contact with several authorities and can’t reveal now, out of respect to them,” Mr. Jakrapob said in his email. “[T]he general reception is very encouraging. It is quite apparent that almost all democratic countries / authorities are uniformly dismayed with the military takeover.”
Mr. Jakrapob also said he expected to be named secretary-general of the yet unnamed body and that Mr. Thaksin will not play a direct role.
BP: Not to be pedantic, but this is different from a government in exile which is defined by Wikipedia as “a government in exile is a political group which claims to be a country’s legitimate government, but is unable to exercise legal power and instead resides in a foreign country. Governments in exile usually plan to one day return to their native country and regain formal power”.
A government in exile was unlikely to work, but an organization in exile may be a better format although will need some people of some sway to be treated seriously (Jakrapob is not sufficient). Foreign countries wouldn’t have to officially recognize it as a government in exile so there would be no conflict with Thailand and quite a few countries may engage with it at some level. More importantly in the current state of “new found freedom” in Thailand where anyone criticizing the junta is detained and told to cease political activities otherwise they will be criminally prosecuted, such an organization would then basically serve as a critic in exile or opposition to the junta.
NOTE: The Bangkok Post headline simply states “Jakrapob sees ‘govt-in-exile” although there is a bit more naunce in the actual article
BP is unsure how long such an organization would serve a useful function, but in the next couple of months protesting is going to be difficult although BP goes expect restrictions to gradually decline over time particularly once we have an interim government in place.*** Formal statements critical of the coup will also be difficult. No domestic political group can provide a statement. Thus the usefulness of an entity in exile is they can. If the organization has enough political sway their statements will get picked up by the Thai press. No doubt it will cause a shit-storm locally and talks of kinds of banning and thus serving any PR purpose in the first place….
*The Cambodia Daily is a great paper which willing to challenge the status quo in the country the paper is published and ask difficult questions. Some papers in other countries are not as concerned with performing this funtion…
**An interim PM and Cabinet would not be able to escape questions and summon reporters claiming they are asking aggressive questions…
***Depending who is Appointed PM, this may also create some political problems and serve as a flashpoint….