Thaksin Shinawatra has used his influence on the new Pheu Thai-led government to stress the importance of it leading the way in much-touted reconciliation efforts.
While the former prime minister holds no official position in the party and is in exile, Pheu Thai is his party in all but name and he classes himself as an ”adviser”.
With his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the likely new prime minister, Thaksin has outlined to her how he thinks the country’s social and political divides can be healed – and that it is crucial the new government take the first step.
”The government needs to state its clear position that reconciliation must happen,” Thaksin said in an interview in Brunei with Post Today editor NHA-KRAN LOAHAVILAI utopiaand senior reporter WISSANU NUNTONG.
”[The government] needs support from all stakeholders, and it can’t allow those parties with differences to stage a confrontation.
”The disputes of the past five years can’t be solved overnight, but there has to be a starting point.
”The government has to serve as a leader for the reconciliation effort and fully support the work of the national reconciliation committee.”
Thaksin said he viewed Dec 5 – the 84th birthday of His Majesty the King – as key to the reconciliation effort.
”Everyone needs to lower their pride and join together,” he said. ”All colours, all sides, should come together and offer our blessings [to His Majesty].
”A good beginning [to reconciliation] is important. The government has to start this process well, to give the public confidence.”
Thaksin said he has advised Ms Yingluck to consider his own mistakes.
”Civil society is important and time needs to be given to their concerns,” he said. ”Before, we worked a lot. We didn’t look down [on civil society], we just were immersed in our work. It was a mistake.”
Economic measures also are a priority for the new government to help address the rising cost of living and pressure on the poor, as well as rebuilding relations with the global community and the country’s neighbours.
Thaksin insisted that he was only an adviser to Pheu Thai, with no formal role in the formation of the new cabinet.
But he said the formation of a strong coalition government and cabinet hinged on two factors _ political stability in parliament and choosing qualified people to execute policy.
The closely watched economics portfolios, including the Finance, Commerce, Industry and Energy ministries, are all expected to be tightly held by Pheu Thai insiders.
But Thaksin said the party was also looking to outsiders to play key roles in the new cabinet, although he declined to offer specifics.
Ms Yingluck, who looks set to become Thailand’s first female prime minister, was Pheu Thai’s figurehead as it romped to a dominant victory in the July 3 elections and has announced plans to form a six-party coalition holding more than 300 seats in the new government.
Thaksin has not set foot in Thailand since 2008 when he fled the country after being charged with corruption. He was later found guilty in absentia and sentenced to two years in prison, and in 2010 the Supreme Court ordered the confiscation of 46 billion baht of his assets on the grounds of policy corruption during his time as premier from 2001 to 2006.
In the election campaign, the then-ruling Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva argued that a Pheu Thai victory would lead to Tha ksin’s conviction being quashed and efforts being launched to bring about an amnesty bill that would allow Thaksin to return to Thailand without facing jail.
But Pheu Thai’s emphatic victory clearly shows popular support for the 61-year-old billionaire remains strong.
Thaksin played down the imminence and importance of the amnesty.
”An amnesty bill isn’t the priority,” he said. ”Reconciliation is.
”Once that is accomplished, if [an amnesty] is needed, then OK. If it’s not, then it’s not.
”I’ve always said that I don’t want to be part of the problem _ I want to be part of the solution, or part of the process in helping solve the problems.
”I return and it helps things improve, then great, but if it makes things worse, then I won’t return. I can continue to pursue my interests abroad.”
Thaksin insisted he holds no personal grudges against anyone, even political enemies such as Newin Chidchob, the de facto leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, or Suthep Thaugsuban, the former secretary-general of the Democrat Party.
”I forgive everyone. There aren’t any ill feelings,” he said.
”Now, this doesn’t mean that we will have to work together. There are a lot of things involved in working together. But that doesn’t have anything to do with ill feelings.
”For anyone afraid I will seek retribution, they can come and see me and I’ll gladly treat them to a meal in Dubai.”
He continued that the election results should be accepted by all in the name of reconciliation and out of respect for the democratic system.
”[The election] was in line with the rules,” said Thaksin. ”If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose, and prepare for next time.
”Regardless, every party is working for the country, so let’s help each other.
”The rules are clear: it’s the public that chooses. Whoever they choose, they then go and perform their duty. The losing party goes and performs a different duty.”
Thaksin added: ”It’s like a football match _ we might cheer for one team. They’ve played well, but lose on penalties. You have to respect the results.
”The loser simply goes back and practises, and tries to do better next time.
”You don’t lose and quit, and you aren’t always going to be the champ. Things move in seasons.”
The techno geek who packs eight mobiles
It should come as no great surprise, but Thaksin Shinawatra likes his mobile phones. All eight of them.
The former prime minister started one recent interview by switching from one phone he had been talking on to another. Among his collection were several Blackberrys, at least two Apple iPhones and what appeared to be a Samsung Galaxy touch-screen model, among others.
“Some periods are busier than others [in using the phones],” shrugged Thaksin as he ran through a message list on one Blackberry.
A genuine technophile, Thaksin built his fortune by founding Thailand’s largest mobile phone operator and sole satellite operator. Later, as prime minister, he initiated policies to raise computer literacy, broaden online public services and expand information technology.