Self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has once again vowed to return home next month after 17 years of living abroad.
In an interview with TV show host Kachapa Tonjaroen in Singapore last week, Thaksin said he would definitely return home in July regardless of the potential consequences. He said he is waiting for the signal from his daughter and one of the Pheu Thai Party's prime minister candidates, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, about the timing of his comeback.
Yesterday, Ms Paetongtarn gave a media interview about her plans to fly to see Thaksin overseas and assist him back to Thailand. This is not the first time that Thaksin has made such a statement. He has made similar statements via Twitter as well as an interview with Nikkei Shimbun in March and six times last year.
In fact, the exiled ex-prime minister can return to Thailand any time he likes because, as a Thai citizen, no law bars his return, although he has been sentenced to imprisonment in four court cases. But he chose not to return after each announcement for one simple reason -- he does not want to spend time in jail, not even a single day, as he has rejected the Thai justice process, claiming that it is unfair against him.
If he returns this time, the potential risk he faces when he sets foot on Thai soil is that he may be escorted by police and corrections officials to serve his time for a 10-year jail sentence imposed by the court in three cases -- two years for the 3-digit and 2-digit special lotteries; five years for ordering the Thai Exim Bank to extend a 4 billion-baht-loan to Myanmar to purchase telecom equipment from one of his companies and five years for allowing nominees to hold shares in Shin Corporation on his behalf.
Reactions to his planned return from his supporters and opponents appear to be tame as the Thai political landscape characterised by the divide between "red" and "yellow" groups has changed.
The political divide now appears to be the zealous conservative group which wants to maintain the status quo on one side, and on the other side, the so-called "progressive" wing who are eager to see no less than root-and-branch change, such as a total redressing of the lese majeste law, dismantling of mandatory conscription, and marriage equality, among others.
Nonetheless, if Thaksin wants to return and face the potential consequences of the law, he should keep a low profile so as to not arouse the sentiments of his supporters or opponents. For the sake of peace and order, both sides should stay calm and refrain from taking to the streets to voice their support or protest.
Thaksin hopes to return before his July 26 birthday. But that may not be the right timing as political uncertainties prevail.
The new government is yet to be formed, and whether Pita Limjaroenrat will be the next prime minister is still in doubt, with the Senate as the main stumbling block. Even if it is not his intention, Thaksin's planned return next month could complicate the political situation. Since he has already missed his birthday celebrations in Thailand for 16 years, waiting a bit longer may be more appropriate and beneficial to all concerned.