WHISPERED APOLOGY TO PREM
'Easing of political tension'
By The Nation
Published on May 31, 2008
No implications now; analysts debate meaning of Thaksin's gesture
Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra offered an apology to Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda during their brief meeting on Thursday evening at Wat Sommanat.
"I am sorry for all that has happened," Thaksin was quoted by a military source as telling Prem.
Thaksin made a sudden appearance at Wat Sommanat, where a funeral ceremony was being held for the mother of Army commander-in-chief General Anupong Paochinda. He greeted Prem with a wai. Prem simply stood still with his face grim and listened to Thaksin. The only words that Prem said to Thaksin were: "Maybe later."
The meeting between Prem and Thaksin, with the Army chief acting as a moderator, signalled the hovering political tension might be easing somewhat, but Thaksin is still facing a big threat from the possible dissolution of the People Power Party (PPP) over alleged election frauds and from the seizure of Bt76 billion worth of his assets, not to mention additional corruption charges against him.
Thaksin's supporters have been attacking Prem for two years, accusing the statesman of masterminding the September 2006 military coup. However, Thaksin's meeting with Prem represents the latest twist in the political developments that most people earlier feared might take a turn for the worse.
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been rallying for the uprooting of the Thaksin regime, using the government's attempt to rewrite the Constitution, and now its failure to tackle the troubled economy, as a pretext. The PAD said the charter amendments were aimed at nullifying the agencies that were now working on the corruption cases against Thaksin.
Yesterday, eight members of Parliament withdrew their signatures on a motion filed to amend the Constitution, but a PPP meeting insisted it had decided to keep the option of amending the Constitution open, although it might have to wait for the results of a referendum first.
PM' Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair yesterday resigned from his office under pressure from the government and his party. The police will pursue lese-majeste charges against him.
Education Minister Somchai Wongsawat said the meeting between Thaksin and Prem carried no political ramifications, because Thaksin had announced he would not return to politics, while Prem himself was not involved in politics.
"So the meeting does not have any implications," he said.
At first, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama declined to comment on Thaksin's paying respect to Prem, saying he was still serving as Thaksin's personal lawyer. But when he was asked further whether Thaksin's wai had any political implications, Noppadon said: "No, there were no political implications, only cultural and religious ones."
A Democrat party executive, who asked not to be named, said: "When people meet at a funeral, they wai. That's normal."
However, Thaksin took the opportunity to show the performance to the public. He knew that everyone, including prominent public figures, would be there and that the media would certainly play up his display.
"It was Thaksin's show," he said.