TOKYO — Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called for a return to democracy in Thailand and predicts a political party led by his supporters could easily win an election.
Thaksin attended a reception in Tokyo on Thursday with his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, also a former prime minister. He briefly answered questions from a reporter in a video posted on the website of Japan’s Asahi newspaper.
He said he is not involved with the Pheu Thai Party, but added: “I believe that we have many good people in [the] Pheu Thai Party. They should be able to lead the party to another landslide victory.”
Both his and Yingluck’s governments were ousted by military coups. The junta that took power in 2014 under Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has repeatedly postponed dates for new elections but now promises them by February.
Thaksin was prime minister from 2001-2006, when a coup removed him after street protests accused him of abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy.
He went into self-imposed exile in 2008 to avoid serving a prison term on a conflict of interest charge. His supporters contended the actions against him were unfair and manipulated by Thailand’s ruling class – led by royalists and the military – who resented his huge electoral popularity.
Thaksin’s political machine made a comeback in a 2011 election under Pheu Thai, a reconstitution of his original Thai Rak Thai Party, and his sister Yingluck became prime minister.
She was forced out of office by a controversial court decision in May 2014, followed shortly by another coup, with the army saying it had to restore peace and order.
Prayuth’s military-led government has pursued changes in the constitution and other measures to try to prevent another comeback by Thaksin’s political machine.