THAILAND’S former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has criticized attempts by the ruling military junta to push forward a constitution, calling it “crazy” and part of a strategy to avoid a long overdue election.
Speaking to the Financial Times in Singapore recently, the former leader called for talks with the generals, warning that otherwise the country could soon become an autocratic nation similar to dictator-ruled North Korea or pre-reformation Burma (Myanmar).
In the interview, Thaksin, who has been in exile since 2008 following corruption allegations, said the military and its allies were trying to put off elections out of fears it would lose its grip on power.
He also claimed in a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal that the current draft of the constitution would make elected officials redundant.
“It’s a charade to show the world that Thailand is returning to democracy, but in reality, it would be like Myanmar before its political reforms,” he said.
“There would be a prime minister, but the real power would be in some politburo above him and the economy would suffer. No other government would want to touch Thailand.”
He advised Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to hold talks with the country’s political groups to find a middle ground that would be acceptable for everyone.
“Instead of trying to write a crazy constitution, you had better have some discussion on what [people] would like to see,” he said.
Despite his criticisms, Thaksin says he is not trying to “challenge” Thailand’s rulers, but rather that he wanted to “see the country moving forward, to return democracy to the people”, adding that “in the 21st century, no one respects the country with the junta regime”.
Thaksin decided to come forward with his thoughts in the rare interviews after the latest constitution proposal was revealed, saying that he had been quiet for too long.
In the draft, the constitution would allow for an unelected prime minister, making it possible for a military leader to continue to lead the country after elections. There have also been proposals by junta officials for the National Council for Peace and Order to still hold on to power behind a civilian government.
In 2014, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted as prime minister by a military coup following several months of political unrest.
Recent polls, however, have indicated that the Pheu Thai party, which is aligned with Thaksin, would be likely to win should elections be held.