In Thailand: Thaksin’s Media Blitz
January 29, 2007
Thailand’s ousted Thaksin Shinawatra can return home if he stays out of politics, interim prime minister Surayud Chulanot has said. The Thai print media extensively reported Thaksin’s censored CNN interview, in which he claimed that “enough was enough” as well as similar interviews with the international print media purporting that he has no intention of going back to domestic politics. Few supporters or detractors, however, believe his repeated assertions as his actions in the past have always spoken louder than his words.
At this time, it is more likely that the reason for Thaksin’s recent media blitz is based not on any desire to return to Thailand and play a continuing role in politics, but rather on how to safeguard his personal freedom and protect his billions in assets from seizure.
Thaksin, with professional advice from public relations firm Edelman and Washington lobbyist Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, is painting himself as a victim: a clean man, a true patriot wrapped in allegiance to the rule of law who built a vibrant, dynamic economy, and sacrificed relentlessly for the marginalized, the ignored poor rural farmers of Thailand. This image campaign, designed to whitewash allegations of extra-judicial killings and disappearances, policy corruption that lined his family’s pockets (including the sale of family-controlled Shin Corp to Singapore government investment arm Temesak), abuse of power — and insider contracting deals for substandard construction that caused hundreds of cracks on the runways in the four-month-old Suvanabhumi International Airport — will come to a crescendo as indictments are progressively lodged against him, his family, and his associates and as court proceedings begin to suggest potential guilty verdicts.
The intended result of this public relations campaign is worldwide sympathy for Thaksin, which will enable Thaksin to secure political asylum and protection for his billions in assets from court seizure. For the Thai public, the real end result following a year of political and economic chaos ignited by Thaksin’s dissolution of parliament on February 25, 2006 will be a lack of closure; a failure once again in its history to assert the rule of law to bring to justice those who believe they are above the law; and yet another failure to clearly signal to corrupt bureaucrats and politicians that Thais do indeed desire the type of transparent, accountable, and just government that was the antithesis of Thaksin’s authoritarian style of governance.
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