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Thai court rules against Thaksin

I'm sure MsExPat will have more to say about this, but for now I'd just like to get the news out there. BBC:

Thailand's Supreme Court has ruled that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's family should be stripped of more than half a contested $2.3bn fortune.

The court said $1.4bn (£910m) of the assets were gained illegally through conflict of interest when Mr Thaksin was prime minister.

The funds were frozen after Mr Thaksin's elected government was overthrown in a military coup in 2006.

Mr Thaksin, who is living abroad, has denied any wrongdoing.

The Supreme Court said "to seize all the money would be unfair since some of it was made before Thaksin became prime minister".

BBC's stringer says this splt-the-difference verdict won't solve the Thai elite's legitimacy problems:

By choosing to confiscate some, but not all of Mr Thaksin's known assets, the court has managed to dampen arguments from his "red shirt" supporters that the entire judiciary is suborned to a military-bureaucratic elite which intends to finish off Mr Thaksin once and for all.

But it will also weaken the government's demonisation of Mr Thaksin. It appears to be saying that the former prime minister did cheat on the hiding and increase of his fortune, but he was significantly and legitimately wealthy when he entered office. He remains a rich man by any standards.

What this verdict will not do is heal the divisions in this country, polarised by Mr Thaksin's hugely popular appeal and the threat this poses to the military-bureaucratic elite. The 2006 coup that deposed him continues to damage the legitimacy of the current military-backed government of Abhisit Vejajjiva - this basic issue also goes well beyond one man and his money.


Fine word, "legitimacy".... (Though, again, it's tempting and almost always wrong to view Thailand through our own polarized lenses -- MsExPat will have real analysis, knowing the ground better.)

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Submitted by MsExPat on

Tonight, I was in a taxi around 8:15 pm when the verdict was finally announced. It's Friday night and usually the streets are packed with traffic, but there wasn't any tonight, and shops were shuttered.

The driver had the live feed of the Supreme Court on his radio. I don't understand Thai at all, but I could tell what it was because of the sonorous tone of the voices, and the occasional proper name--Thaksin, AIS, Shin. The judge's reading has been in the background everywhere around town, all day.

The Supreme Court began reading their decision aloud at 1:45 pm, and didn't finish until nearly 9pm. There's a good live blog of the decision reading up on the website of The Nation, one of the two English language Thai newspapers.

There haven't been any demonstrations, and my source--a Thai police officer friend--told me there will not be tonight or this weekend. The Red Shirts decided to postpone demonstrating until March12 to 14th.

Why did they decide to wait? The blogger at The Nation thinks it is because they are confused and fragmented, and they're not going to be getting any money from Thaksin anytime soon to bankroll the demonstrations.

But I think there's a timing issue, too. Monday here is a public holiday, a Buddhist holiday**, and I noticed when I walked by the Sanang Luang park--over by the Supreme Court, where the demonstrations would be held--that there was a fair with lots of booths set up by Buddhist organizations on the field. It would have been very indelicate to stage a demo around all the monks.

Finally, I wonder if Thaksin really has the kind of support he used to. A multi-billionaire who gamed the system while he was in power to make more gazillions of dollars isn't exactly the best poster boy for Thailand's grassroots movement. And this court decision--which takes away the windfall illicit profits Thaksin made while in office, but lets him keep the money he had before entering politics--seems calculated to appeal to Thai people's sense of justice.

**The Buddhist holiday, incidentally, is called Mahka Bhuja--it is the "Buddhist's Lent", when you are supposed to reflect on and repent your wrongdoings. Think it is a coincidence (not) that Thaksin's judgement was handed down on the eve of this holiday?

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Submitted by MsExPat on

of the "split the difference" verdict is very wrong here:

But it will also weaken the government's demonisation of Mr Thaksin. It appears to be saying that the former prime minister did cheat on the hiding and increase of his fortune, but he was significantly and legitimately wealthy when he entered office. He remains a rich man by any standards.

The court's decision is very Asian. (The King of Thailand had urged the court to arrive at a conclusion consistent with "dharma".) By "Asian", I mean, you find someone guilty, but then you don't devastate them completely--you toss them a bone to save their face.

As the Nation commentary points out, it's not at all certain that Thaksin will get to keep ANY of the money, since he'll be liable for other court and tax proceedings.

And while he may end up with enough money at the end of the day to live his lifestyle, that isn't what's at stake for him--he needs to have super mega-bucks if he wants to keep his political movement going in Thailand.

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Submitted by MsExPat on

And blue is the color of Friday.

I don't think there's necessarily a political meaning in it.

Everything is very quiet here.

I grilled my friends here about their take on the situation when I arrived. I asked them, "So what's going on here. I can't figure it out?" She laughed. "Neither can I. I just want it to stop. It's really hurting the country."

Years ago my friends were solid Thaksin supporters, but now they are not. What's come out about his corruption over the telecom scandal, his private jets and huge houses in Hong Kong and Dubai, his "buying" of demonstrators, his cozying up, in exile, to creeps like Cambodia's Hun Sen (and now Sri Lanka's new leader Rajapakse)--has all taken its toll.

He needs to go, so Thailand's underclass can have a movement based on issues, not on the personality cult of a manipulative tycoon.

I am very suspicious of any so-called movement that forms around a charismatic, popular leader who has no ideology except his own ego. Back in the day--remember the day?--we used to think this was the symptom of an "immature" country that wasn't "ready for democracy."

Yeah, right.