NEW YORK: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin says he sees Thaksin Shinawatra playing a role in government once he is freed from prison — a sign of how the former premier continues to loom over the country’s politics.
“I believe he has value to add to the government and to the people of Thailand,” Mr Srettha said during an interview with Haslinda Amin of Bloomberg Television in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly.
The new prime minister is seeking to revive an economy in which growth has lagged neighbours during nearly a decade of rule by a military-dominated government.
“He was, and probably still is, the most popular prime minister in the history of Thai politics,” Mr Srettha said of Thaksin, who is still considered the key strategist of the Pheu Thai Party.
“Obviously, that comes with good reasons and if he becomes free it would be unwise of me not to seek his opinion and other prime ministers as well.”
Thaksin returned to Thailand on Aug 22 after more than 15 years in self-exile abroad. He is currently recovering from surgery at Police General Hospital, where he was transferred just hours after beginning an eight-year prison term, later reduced to one year, for abuse of authority and conflict of interest.
Mr Srettha’s attendance at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly marks his first overseas engagement since taking office earlier this month. He is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Friday night Thailand time.
After more than 30 years in the private sector as a property developer, Mr Srettha acknowledged his political inexperience during his Bloomberg interview, but he dismissed any concerns over the durability of the unwieldy 11-party ruling coalition, which includes military-aligned parties from the previous administration.
“I believe it is a very, very stable government,” he said.
As to what role Thaksin might play in the new government, that is less clear. “Let’s play it by ear,” Mr Srettha said.