Ex-PM Thaksin plans return to Thailand as post-poll deadlock drags on

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  • Self-exiled leader faces possible jail term
  • Political parties jostling to take power after May polls
  • Pheu Thai party backed by Thaksin seeking to form government

BANGKOK, July 26 (Reuters) – Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra plans to return on Aug. 10, his daughter said on Wednesday, coming home from self-exile to a country struggling to overcome a political deadlock after a May general election won by opponents of military rule.

Former telecoms tycoon Thaksin spent years trying to resist military interference in governments led by his populist party and was eventually ousted in a 2006 coup.

He left the country two years later to avoid corruption convictions that he said were politically motivated.”Dad is returning on 10 August,” Thaksin’s youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, said in a social media post.

Paetongtarn is a senior member of the Pheu Thai party, the latest incarnation of a party founded by and loyal to Thaksin, which came second in the May election to the progressive Move Forward Party.

The two election-winning parties have together been trying to form a government with six like-minded partners but have been stymied by opposition from the military-appointed upper house Senate and conservative opponents.Thaksin, premier from 2001 until his ousting in 2006, has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008.

He faces up to 10 years in jail for his convictions.The 74-year-old would be subject to the judicial process upon his return, deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn said.”The police will conduct their duties normally when the plane lands.

He will have to go to court and listen to what they decide,” Surachate told Reuters.A Pheu Thai official declined to comment on Thaksin’s return, saying the party was not involved.

Thaksin has vowed to come back before only to change his mind.In a message to supporters, Thaksin made no mention of any personal political ambitions but said he wanted to thank them for backing Pheu Thai.”The economy will vastly improve under a Pheu Thai government,” he said.


A prime minister has to be voted in by a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament, according to a constitution drafted under military rule, a system that critics say gives the military-appointed Senate the power to block parties that win the most seats from forming a government.

Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the liberal Move Forward party, which won the most seats in May with the backing of young voters, has been blocked from becoming prime minister largely because of his party’s aim to amend a law that punishes insulting the monarchy with up to 15 years in jail.

Critics say the law has been used by conservative forces to stifle dissent.With Move Forward stalled, the second-placed Pheu Thai is attempting to gather support in parliament to get one of its candidates elected prime minister.Some analysts suspect that it will have to strike a deal with its old pro-military rivals to achieve that.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, said Thaksin’s return was a likely sign that Pheu Thai had found a way to form the next government but it may have to severe ties with Move Forward to do that.”Pheu Thai is going for broke,” Thitinan said.

“They will join the government and isolate Move Forward and part of the deal is to bring Thaksin back.”A Move Forward official said Thaksin’s return was a “private matter” and unrelated to the formation of a government.A vote in parliament to select a prime minister was postponed this week to give a court time to review a petition over a decision to block Pita’s candidature for the top job.

The house speaker, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, told reporters he was hopeful that the Constitutional Court would act with urgency to deal with the appeal and clear the way for a vote for prime minister.

A supporter of Pheu Thai Party holds up a portrait of the former prime minister and founder of the party, Thaksin Shinawatra. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

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