Former Thai PM vows to be back for birthday

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra told his red-shirt supporters yesterday that he would return to Thailand in the next three or four months.

Thaksin, who has been in self-exile overseas, did not specify the exact date but he had said earlier that his supporters were preparing for his return as "a birthday present". His birthday is on July 26.

"This year's Songkran is a good sign that we will be happy together again. I will certainly come back in the next three or four months," Thaksin said. "All the Thais will be happy. From now on, there will be no yellow shirts and red shirts. Thai people will make up their differences. I can't help people who don't want to reconcile," he said, in a probable reference to opponents of the government's "rushed reconciliation" moves.

He was addressing a group of red shirts, mostly from the Northeast, at a hotel in Laos' southern province of Champasak.

Thaksin also claimed credit for selecting his sister Yingluck Shinawatra as a prime-ministerial candidate. "Although I was overseas, I helped you appoint a prime minister. I chose my younger sister as PM candidate because I thought she could do the job," he said.

"I believe Prime Minister Yingluck will complete her [four-year] term in office," said Thaksin, who political observers believe is pulling strings behind her government.

He also said that the government was implementing many projects to help prop up prices of farm produce, help poor people and farmers with their debts, and build motorways and high-speed rail routes.

Earlier yesterday in Vientiane, Thaksin praised Yingluck for avoiding his errors by refraining from countering political attacks. He said it was the right strategy for her while serving as the government head.

"It is best not to counterattack. She is doing better than I did. I can't compare to her in this regard. The PM is patient, and she does not counter anyone. She is just doing her job. That's the right thing to do. I did it wrong and she should not copy me," he said.

Thaksin also praised Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, who is regarded by many of Thaksin's supporters as his arch-rival. "In fact, Pa Prem is a senior figure I respect and admire," he said of the 91-year-old elder statesman.

Thaksin called on Thais to unite for the betterment of the country.

"Songkran should serve as a good beginning for the Thais throughout the country to love one another. We will do it for our King, for our country to get stronger, and for every one of us to be happy," Thaksin said.

The Thai ambassador to Laos, Witthawat Sriwihok, said Thaksin could travel to Laos because of his good personal ties with many high-ranking officials in the Laotian government.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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