Exiled Thaksin running out of options

Exiled Thaksin running out of options
Protesters against military rule hold up signs, as they watch others scuffle with soldiers, from inside a McDonald's restaurant at Bangkok's shopping district.

THAILAND - With his Puea Thai party and power base in disarray amid a determined crackdown by the ruling military, and the Thai King's endorsement of junta supremo Prayuth Chan-ocha expected today, the options for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra are looking severely limited.

In a tweet yesterday, Thaksin said that "as an elected PM", he was "saddened" by the "tragic events caused by another coup" and called for those detained to receive fair treatment.

His sister - and now also former premier - Yingluck Shinawatra, detained on Friday, was released yesterday but barred from leaving Thailand, reports said.

Thaksin was out of the country when he was ousted in an army coup in 2006 on the grounds of corruption and disrespecting the monarchy. He later fled Thailand to escape a two-year jail sentence for corruption.

He continued to exert influence though he lives in self-exile abroad, with his political parties winning elections and his "red shirt" power base giving him its full support. The former police officer is often said to have taken to heart the motto of Thailand's police cadet school: "Better to die than live like a loser."

Thaksin's best bet for returning to power is an election. But whether there will be one, and under what rules, is uncertain. Speaking to The Straits Times from an undisclosed location, Mr Chaturon Chaisang, a minister in the ousted government, said that sooner or later the military regime would have to call an election. But the coup d'etat was about "changing the rules of the game" so that nobody could challenge the entrenched old elite even through elections, he added.

Given this reality, the option of setting up a government-in-exile is being considered, according to Thaksin's lawyer, Britain- based Robert Amsterdam. "Steps are now being undertaken to re-form a coherent... red shirt leadership outside of Thailand," he said on his website yesterday.

The junta is not impressed and has threatened to take legal action against Mr Amsterdam.

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