ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai government becoming a family affairBy David Swartzemtruber
During last week’s parliamentary debate on the new Thai government’s proposed policies, MP Chuvit Kamolvisit exposed an illegal casino operated by the Royal Thai Police in the heart of Bangkok. Gambling is illegal in Thailand.
This led to the resignation of the current police chief, Pol. Gen. Wichean Potephosree. It now appears that the leading candidate for the position is his deputy, Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong, who is the elder brother of Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, the ex-wife of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The current prime minister of Thailand is Yingluck Shinawatra, who is the youngest sister of Mr. Thaksin. Mr. Thaksin remains outside of Thailand as a fugitive from justice after receiving a two-year sentence for corruption, while serving as prime minister.
One can envision a very interesting scenario that could develop in Thailand.
A significant portion of the Thai electorate wants Mr.Thaksin to serve his jail term and is opposed to granting him amnesty. They also believe the new government’s national reconciliation intentions are merely a cover-up to grant Mr. Thaksin amnesty at some point.
If Mr. Thaksin would step from his private jet onto Thai soil, it would be likely that the projected new top cop Pol Gen Priewpan Damapong would be there to greet him, not with a paddy wagon but with open arms.
One can also imagine that those opposed to Mr. Thaksin would view this homecoming as an insult to the country, perhaps triggering another coup.
Even without this scenario developing, the prospect of two relatives of Mr. Thaksin occupying two extremely important positions may trigger an outcry that could return protesters to streets of Bangkok. The new police chief takes office next week.
The new police chief is regarded as a good crime fighter and if that is the case, the Thai public may swing to his side, particularly if visible progress can be made on curtailing the cross-border drug trade into Thailand.
However, the issue of Mr. Thaksin’s amnesty remains a volatile issue and could result in another fractious country-splitting struggle in Thailand if it appears many Thai criminal law is being flouted to benefit Mr. Thaksin with tacit approval of the country’s top law enforcement official.
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