Thaksin calls for party unity ahead of promised election

Thaksin calls for party unity ahead of promised election

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra looks on as he speaks to Reuters during an interview in Singapore Feb 23, 2016. (Reuters file photo)
Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra looks on as he speaks to Reuters during an interview in Singapore Feb 23, 2016. (Reuters file photo)

Fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met lawmakers from the Pheu Thai Party in Hong Kong where he called for party unity ahead of an approaching general election, party members said on Monday.

Many are watching to see how Pheu Thai performs in a vote which the military government has promised to hold in November but which could be delayed.

The siblings have been in Asia since the start of the month, said party members, and have visited China, Japan and Hong Kong before travelling to Singapore on Monday.

Prayuth Siripanich, a Pheu Thai Party member and its former representative for the northeastern province of Maha Sarakham, said 10 lawmakers flew to Hong Kong on Saturday and returned on Monday.

“Thaksin asked lawmakers to be united and not to break that unity,” Mr Prayuth told Reuters. “He asked that lawmakers meet their constituents because the election is fast approaching.”

Piyapong Klinpan, a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order told reporters in Bangkok that “relevant agencies”, including police, were following Yingluck and Thaksin.

He did not give further details.

Supporters of the Shinawatras say the family are victims of political persecution. Their critics accuse them of widespread corruption, which they deny.

Thaksin, the founder of Advanced Info Service Plc, Thailand’s largest mobile phone operator, was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 when he was overthrown in a military coup supported by the Bangkok-based establishment.

Now based in Dubai, he continues to loom large over Thai politics and remains popular in the Northeast which, along with the North, forms the stronghold of parties aligned with Thaksin which have won every election since 2001 by appealing to poorer voters.

His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected prime minister in 2011. She was overthrown in a 2014 military coup.

Yingluck fled Thailand last August before the Supreme Court found her guilty of negligence in mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme and sentenced her to five years in prison.

Sources in the Pheu Thai Party say she is currently based in England.

Thaksin was convicted in absentia in 2008 on conflict of interest charges.


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