The premier strikes back, targeting Thaksin and Pheu Thai
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha directed his satirical skills at deposed former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his proxy Pheu Thai Party while responding to the opposition’s allegations against him and his government during the final day of a general parliamentary debate on Thursday.
Many Cabinet members from previous governments were sent to prison for corruption while none from his administration has been convicted for graft, he said.
While he was making his speech, a placard was displayed nearby with a pointed message: five government ministers from a past government and three others from another were found guilty of corruption and sentenced to prison.
“Regarding corruption, many of you made allegations [against the current government] although many of your former ministers were involved in corruption and served time in prison for it. Some others are now abroad. These are facts,” Prayut said.
He was referring to certain key government figures of the past who fled corruption charges to live abroad in self-exile, including Thaksin. The ex-PM, who was deposed in a military coup in 2006, is regarded as the patriarch of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, whose government was overthrown in May 2014 in a power seizure led by General Prayut while he was serving as the Army chief.
Prayut also countered allegations by opposition MPs that he lacked responsibility in tackling the country’s chronic narcotics problem.
The government is seriously addressing the issue in all aspects, he said, noting that Thailand has been used as a transit point from neighbouring countries to a third country.
“Suppressing illicit drugs does not mean simply killing 2,000-3,000. Is that the right thing to do? Can we do that?” the prime minister asked.
He was referring to the so-called war on drugs implemented during Thaksin’s first term as prime minister. Thousands of people suspected of involvement with the drug trade were put on a police blacklist. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people were killed. The Thaksin government said they were murdered by fellow drug dealers, supposedly to silence them before they became state witnesses.
No arrests for any of the murders were ever made. Rights groups described them as extrajudicial killings by police.
Regarding Chinese triad bosses in Thailand, General Prayut said that the key suspect – Chaiyanat “Tuhao” Kornchayanant – had been allowed to stay in Thailand since 2011, four years before he came to power.
The PM also noted that Tuhao’s application to obtain Thai citizenship had been approved by his government’s predecessor and that his post-coup administration simply followed the legal process by endorsing the approval.
Prayut said that some Chinese triad gang used their money to buy luxury houses “for almost the whole housing project”, implying money laundering.
He then suggested an unnamed company with no links to his government was involved.
“I don’t know who that [property] company belongs to. But I can confirm that this government has no practice of selling houses along with citizenship,” he said.
The premier also noted that Tuhao’s wife – a colonel who has been dismissed from the Royal Thai Police – was related to a former minister of another political party.
Prayut had been the main target as opposition MPs attacked him and his government during the two-day debate at the House of Representatives.