Thaksin, Yingluck visit Penang, enjoy street food
Apparently buoyed by his victory last month in a tax case to do with Shin Corp share sales, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra, came very close to Thailand – visiting Penang, Malaysia.
Malaysian newspaper The Star, a member of the Asia News Network, reported on Thursday that the two exiled VVIP siblings were spotted at Cecil Street market during the peak lunch hour on Wednesday. The two reportedly ordered popular Malaysian street food – koay teow th’ng and Chinese pasembur – at about 1pm.
The Star said they were earlier spotted at a food court in Weld Quay.
The surprise visit to the Malaysian border town south of Thailand created huge excitement, as many Penang residents instantly recognised them and approached them for selfies, the paper reported.
The two former PMs happily let their admirers take and share their photos in what is seen by Thai political observers as a subtle political message for Thailand, especially for the “3-Ps” generals in the government – suspended prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, acting PM and Deputy Premier General Prawit Wongsuwan and Interior Minister General Anupong “Pok” Paochinda.
The Star said the two Shinawatras were escorted by Malaysian police on motorcycles and by bodyguards during their visit to Penang.
Thaksin, 73, was prime minister twice – from 2001 to 2006 – before he was toppled by a coup on September 19 that year. Yingluck, 55, rode the wave of Thaksin’s unending popularity to become the country’s first female prime minister in 2011, before she too was toppled in a coup by the 3-Ps on May 22, 2014.
On August 8, Thaksin triumphed in his back-tax share case, the third legal case he has won so far stemming from the 2006 coup.
The Central Tax Court ruled in his favour after he filed a case against a Revenue Department order for him to pay back tax of 17 billion baht on the sale of his Shin Corp shares to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
On November 22, 2019, the Supreme Court acquitted him in a case in which he was charged with abusing his authority as the prime minister by ordering the Finance Ministry to restructure TPI Polene’s debt.
And on August 30 that same year, the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Office acquitted him of allegations that he abused his authority by ordering Krung Thai Bank to approve a loan to Krissada Mahanakhon Group.
Thaksin, who has largely kept a low profile in the past, has become more vocal recently against the generals who staged the coups against him and his sister.
On September 19, Thaksin commemorated the coup against him 19 years ago by listing ten pillars of progress Thailand had “lost” because of the 2006 coup.
He also attacked the generals for “stealthily biting him from behind”.
Political observers said Thaksin has become vocal and is once again seeking the political limelight after pushing his youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, to the political stage while Prayut has kept a low profile since the Constitutional Court suspended him from duty as prime minister.
The court suspended Prayut on August 24 after accepting an opposition petition asking it to rule whether he had reached the end of his eight-year limit as premier. The court will announce its verdict at the end of this month.
In the past, Prayut has retaliated against Thaksin, reminding the exiled PM to behave whenever he sent a "political message" to Thailand.
Thaksin has apparently boosted Paetongtarn into the limelight as a possible PM candidate for the general election next year in her capacity as head of the Pheu Thai Family project.
Since then Paetongtarn has not shied away from seeking public support to bring Thaksin back home. She has asked Pheu Thai supporters to elect the party with a landslide victory so that her father could return home.
In an interview with Prachachart newspaper on Wednesday, Paetongtarn said the “unfair” judicial process would have to be “corrected” and political amnesty studied on a case-by-case basis.