Thaksin says he will ‘never’ give up on Thailand, but is prepared to ‘stay out’
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Thaksin says he will ‘never’ give up on Thailand, but is prepared to ‘stay out’

THAILAND’S former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said he would “never” give up on returning to his home country, but also indicated his readiness to “stay out, if the country is moving forward and [the authorities] respect the voice of the people.”

Speaking from the Metropolitan Club in New York City, Thaksin gave a wide-ranging interview on topics from Thailand’s military junta to his financial assets to Donald Trump.

Living in exile since he was deposed by a military coup in 2006, Thaksin remains a controversial figure both in Thailand and abroad. His very appearance in New York City was met with protests as well as expressions of support.

New York Times journalist Thomas Fuller tweeted the latter’s answers to a series of questions.

As he has done in the past, Thaksin slammed the Thai junta’s proposed constitution, claiming it will “drag the country backward.” He laid into the junta for “bullying” him and his supporters.

Thaksin indicated that the junta seized a “majority” of his assets and revoked his Thai passport. Now travelling using his Montenegro passport, he said, “I can go everywhere in the world, except Thailand.”

During his time in government, Thaksin’s opponents frequently accused him and his family of corruption. In a striking statement, he described his family’s wealth as modest, placing it at about US$1 billion.

As to his possible return to Thailand, Thaksin was decidedly vague. He said he would “never” give up on the idea, but also remarked, “I don’t want to be involved in Thai politics.” Notably peppering his statement with conditions, he said he is willing to “sacrifice” and remain in exile.

Thaksin does have a message for his junta opponents though – talk to him. The junta reacted adversely to Thaksin’s previous public statements, with a government spokesperson describing him as “a person without credibility who thinks he is above the law.”

Thaksin was also asked about U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. This is not such a stretch – like Trump, Thaksin is a polarizing businessman-turned-politician known for his populism and tough-guy persona. However, he seemed to be tight-lipped about the American tycoon.

Fuller was until recently NYT’s Southeast Asia correspondent, before he was relocated to the San Francisco bureau. He covered the 2010 protests in Thailand and was interviewing a prominent member of the ‘Red Shirts’ movement – General Khattiya – when the latter was struck and killed by a sniper.

Fuller said the bullet that killed the general “missed my head by inches.”

The New York Times has been subject to censorship in Thailand in recent months. In September, the Times’ local printer in Thailand refused to the publish the paper over an article referring to King’s declining health. In December, its local printer removed an article about the country’s economic troubles, and then an article about the royal family’s wealth.

At the end of 2015, the International New York Times ended printing and distributing its paper in Thailand, citing rising costs.

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