Prawit calls for Thaksin sway probe
Risk of Pheu Thai's dissolution heightens
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Monday urged the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has control over the affairs of the Pheu Thai Party from abroad, which could result in the party's dissolution for violating the law on political parties.
The call came after Thaksin's interview with Kyodo News during a visit to Hong Kong on Oct 18, where he made several remarks about Thailand's upcoming general election.
Asked whether Thaksin's recent remarks had anything to do with Pheu Thai, Gen Prawit said that Thaksin's remarks had a bearing on all political parties.
"The media should prod [the EC into action] because the remarks have something to do with his party," Gen Prawit said when asked if he wanted the EC to take action.
Asked if Thaksin would make any political remarks when he delivers a speech at Sweden's Stockholm University on Nov 6, Gen Prawit said: "He has been making moves for the past four years without stopping."
In the interview with Kyodo, Thaksin said an alliance of pro-democracy parties would defeat a pro-military coalition if Thailand's upcoming general election were held freely and fairly.
He said he believes the pro-democracy parties 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.
The three so-called "pro-democracy" parties are Pheu Thai, Pheu Chart and Pheu Tham.
Thaksin, a 69-year-old policeman-turned-telecom mogul, was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006. He remains a wanted fugitive in Thailand.
He said the Pheu Thai Party, of which he is considered the de facto leader-in-exile, would do well at the polls scheduled for Feb 24 because many voters believe it "always has a solution for them".
Thaksin and his younger sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, are both living abroad as fugitives from the law.
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 another coup.
Regarding 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.
Pheu Thai's fate is said to hang in the balance as it is under investigation by the EC for alleged violations of the organic law on political parties.
The probe was triggered by Thaksin's video call to Pheu Thai members, some of whom travelled overseas to meet him, fuelling suspicions that he still controls the party despite living in exile.
The law prohibits a party from agreeing to be influenced by an outsider, an offence that may lead to its dissolution.
Pheu Thai members claim the probe is a tactic to stop them from competing in the general election.
EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma told the Bangkok Post that the EC is looking for evidence suggesting Thaksin still has control over Pheu Thai.
If any evidence emerges that the party is controlled by Thaksin, Pol Col Jarungvith said he would ask the EC to set up a panel to probe the case.
So far no one has formally asked the EC to look into the allegation, he added.
That being said, the EC has looked into the matter and found no evidence the party is under Thaksin's control, he continued.
A key Pheu Thai Party figure, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, said Thaksin had made it clear he would not return to politics.
She added that Pheu Thai has to tread carefully and comply with the law to avoid being dissolved in line with Thai law.
"Having experienced two party dissolutions, we have to be careful [moving forward]," she said.
Pheu Thai is said to be a reincarnation of the Thai Rak Thai and People's Power parties, both of which were dissolved due to electoral fraud.