BANGKOK — Thailand’s top diplomat said there is no need to explain a campaign to strip former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of his police rank to foreign governments.
Arguing the bid to deprive Thaksin, the de facto opposition leader, of his rank has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the law, Foreign Minister Gen. Thanasak Patimapakorn told reporters yesterday when asked if foreign governments might see it as politically driven.
“We won’t have to explain anything to them, because it is being done in accordance with [normal] procedures,” Thanasak said.
Thaksin served in the police force from 1973 to 1987, rising to the rank of Police Lieutenant-Colonel, which he has retained since resigning from the force.
But the military government announced Tuesday it would take up the bid to remove that rank, citing police regulations stipulating they are forfeit to officers convicted and sentenced to jail by a court in serious criminal cases.
Junta deputy chairman Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan repeated yesterday that it was a procedural matter.
“This is not arbitrary. It’s all about the laws,” Prawit said. “The people who support Police Lt. Col. Thaksin have to understand that everything is being done under the law. We are not bullying anyone. This government doesn’t want to create any conflict.”
Thaksin was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison by a Bangkok criminal court in 2008, two years after the military staged a coup d’etat against him, ending his five year tenure as an elected Prime Minister. However, Thaksin has never served the jail term because he fled Thailand several months before the verdict was handed down. He insists the conviction was politically-motivated.
Since then, Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile and has continued to influence Thai politics through his allies and proxies, such as his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who headed the government from 2011 to 2014.
The pro-Thaksin government came to an end when the military staged a putsch against it in May 2014. Following the takeover, the junta appointed several bodies to govern the countries, stacking the agencies with numerous politicians, activists, and academics known for publicly opposing Thaksin.
Gen. Prawit added that the government only made the decision to move forward with the plan Tuesday after studying the legal framework to make sure it could be done.
Nevertheless, Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawuth Thawornsiri it had never been done before.
He said the police have stripped 600 officers of their ranks due to legal convictions or other wrongdoing, but all cases involved active-duty officers. Never have police considered stripping the rank of someone who already left the force, Prawuth told reporters yesterday, saying there was no precedent.
“As far as I know, there is none,” he said. “We have to check again, but I believe this case is the first of its kind.”
Although Thaksin has been out of power since the 2006 coup, he continues to be a deeply polarizing figure in Thailand, where the two most prominent political factions – the Yellowshirts and the Redshirts – are divided along their anti- and pro-Thaksin stances.
While the Yellowshirts accuse Thaksin of being a corrupt populist who manipulated rural voters and harbored a hostile attitude toward the monarchy, the Redshirts view him as a champion of the poor whose policies helped raise many from abject poverty.
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