Thaksin scoffs at pro-regime coalition
Says pro-democracy alliance can win poll
An alliance of pro-democracy parties would defeat pro-military ones in Thailand's upcoming general election if it is held freely and fairly, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Thursday.
"I think the pro-democracy parties, all together, would win more than 300 [Lower House] seats out of 500. It's time for [voters] to cast their ballots ... to dump the dictatorship of Thailand," Thaksin said in an interview with Kyodo News during a visit to Hong Kong.
The 69-year-old policeman-turned-telecom mogul was ousted as premier in a bloodless coup in 2006.
He said the Pheu Thai Party, of which he is considered the de facto leader-in-exile, and which has won every national election since 2001, would do well at the polls scheduled for Feb 24 because many voters believe the party "always has a solution for them".
"Every time we form a government, they feel they prosper, especially the people in the middle class and the lower class people," he said.
Thaksin said he is "quite certain" the polls will take place on Feb 24 since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 2014, has "promised internationally several times" to proceed with it, after a series of delays.
"It's his last chance to keep his word," Thaksin said.
He said that under the junta's rule, "you cannot expect any kind of true democracy, you cannot expect any [fairness]".
He and his younger sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, are both living abroad, in London and elsewhere, as fugitives from justice. Thaksin was prime minister from 2001 until 2006, while Yingluck served from 2011 to 2014, when she was ousted by the Constitutional Court shortly before the latest coup.
With regard to his family's future role in politics, Thaksin said, "It's time for us to step back, let the party run itself professionally".
While insisting he prefers not to lead the country as prime minister again because he is "quite settled" overseas, he did not rule out the possibility if his followers were to insist on it.
"I prefer to live my life peacefully, outside Thailand. But if they need me, because I owe them [for] their continual support, whatever I can do for them, even in a different capacity, I will do," he was quoted as saying.
However, a key figure of the pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party dismissed Thaksin's remarks as a publicity stunt.
The source, who declined to give his name, insisted it would be difficult for the three so-called "pro-democracy" parties -- Pheu Thai, Pheu Chart and Pheu Tham -- to win more than 300 House seats unless there were to form an alliance with parties which Thaksin claims would never join forces with Pheu Thai -- for example, the Democrat, Bhumjaithai, and Chartthaipattana parties.
In light of this, the source predicted Pheu Thai would be unlikely to attract more than 220 seats at the next election.
The source was also sceptical of Thaksin's remark that his family would have no role in politics after the election.
"That's quite hard to believe,'' the source said.
Palang Pracharath is seen as a vehicle to support Gen Prayut's return to power after the general election if he chooses to try and reclaim the premiership.
Meanwhile, army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong has come under fire from politicians after controversially saying he could not rule out another coup after the election.
"If politics does not result in riots, nothing will happen," the army chief said on Wednesday.
Deputy Democrat leader Nipit Intarasombat on Thursday said politicians were not a major factor when the military decided to stage a coup.
The military also seeks political power, he said, adding there was no guarantee another coup was not on the cards.
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said Gen Apirat's stance would not disrupt the preparations for the poll as he was not issuing a threat but rather hoping to see a period of stability after the ballots are cast.
Former Democrat deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot said no army chief has ever been able to guarantee a coup would not take place.
"We [politicians] need to create the right conditions to prevent a coup," said the candidate for the Democrat leadership.
The government has said it will respect the results of next year's election.