FORMER prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has accused the junta of attempting to cling to power and cryptically refused to rule out a return to politics.
"If we look at their behaviour, [it is] as if they would like to stay as long as possible," Thaksin said in an interview in New York yesterday, when asked how long he thought the military wanted to stay in power.
He added: "I'm not ruling myself out [of a return to politics] but I'm not having [an] ambition to do it again.
"I'm 67 already now. I want to live my life peacefully."
Having lived in exile overseas since 2008, the fugitive ex-leader said he wished he return home but would consider it only if it would "benefit the country and the people".
He repeatedly expressed concern about the future of Thailand if the new draft constitution were adopted.
Earlier yesterday, Thaksin spoke at a talk organised by the World Policy Institute in New York entitled "Thaksin Shinawatra in Private Discussion".
He said: "Due to the framework set out by the latest draft constitution, it is difficult to foresee a government that is responsive to the people and the challenges of the 21st century.
"The constitution shall protect the rule of law and provide at least a minimum level of freedom of speech that facilitates economic co-operation between the people and the global community.
"Against the transition and change, Thailand must re-evaluate its strength and weakness. The country shall find a sensible way to regain its political stability and economic dynamism."
From the street, shouts of dozens of protesters could be heard as Thaksin began his speech. They were split into two camps - those welcoming him and those insisting he go to jail for corruption.
The former premier apologised to the well-heeled audience at the private club for the protesters but quipped that he hoped they were enjoying freedom of expression in the United States.
In his interview with the media at a New York hotel later that day, Thaksin said he did not believe the next general election would be held in 2017 as promised by the junta.
He said the junta had done "nothing on reconciliation" and was "not providing justice for all, just only trying to use the law to benefit their own politics" in the nearly two years since the coup.
And he warned that the junta could impede economic growth and foreign investment by fanning political uncertainty.
Thaksin repeated his call for talks with the military.
"If you are worried about me, if you're afraid of me going back to power, you talk to me," he said.
He also expressed concern for his younger sister, ex-premier Yingluck Shinawatra, who has been put on trial for alleged negligence in connection with her government's rice-pledging scheme.
"We are worried about the justice that she will be receiving," he said, branding the junta's ban on her returning to politics for five years "very ridiculous".
Thaksin's presence in New York is a continuation of his media campaign in recent weeks. He also gave a series of interviews to the international media in Singapore.