Deputy PM insists Srettha has full power as premier, no interference from Thaksin


Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, who also doubles as deputy PM, dismissed rumours that former PM Thaksin Shinawatra will start influencing the country’s administration now that he is out on parole.

Phumtham said on Monday that those who had such concerns were stuck in the past.

Thaksin, who formed the Thai Rak Thai Party which eventually became the Pheu Thai Party, is believed to command the respect of many core members of the ruling party, including Phumtham.

Phumtham was Thaksin’s right-hand man during both his tenures.

Thaksin returned to his mansion, Baan Chan Song La, on Sunday after being confined at the Police General Hospital for 180 days after returning from his 15 years of self-imposed exile.

Asked if he would visit the former premier, Phumtham said it is only natural for anyone who respected Thaksin to seek a chance to visit him, especially since he has been away for so many years.

“I want to visit him because I love and respect him. I used to work with him for many years, but first I must give him time to be with his family … when I have the chance, I will visit him,” he said.

When asked if Thaksin would help strengthen Pheu Thai, Phumtham said the party was already strong and committed to taking care of the people.

“Pheu Thai’s strength does not depend on any individual,” he said.

As for whether Thaksin would play a role in the government’s work, Phumtham said the former premier had clarified that he wants to spend the rest of his days with his family.

However, he said, Thaksin has offered to provide advice on issues that he has experience or expertise in, though it would depend on the government whether it wants to heed the advice.

“Don’t worry and don’t politicise it. Don’t worry that there will be two prime ministers in our government,” he said.

As for allegations that Thaksin faked his illness, so he could stay out of prison and become eligible for parole, Phumtham pointed out that Thaksin has to wear a cast on his right arm because the tendon on his right shoulder has severed due to old age.

“My tendons were also damaged and I had to undergo an operation and wear a cast for six to seven months,” he said.

“He is ill, so please give him moral support. Don’t look at him with suspicion … It’s normal for a person over 70 years old to wear a cast.”

As for being granted parole, Phumtham said it would not affect the country’s justice system because Thaksin was released in line with the law. He added critics were too prejudiced against him.

However, Senator Kittisak Ratanawaraha refuted Phumtham’s views, saying it was amazing that Thaksin was granted parole even though he did not spend a single day behind bars.

The senator said he does not believe Thaksin is really ill, adding that the Senate will see if there is a way of investigating the Corrections Department and the justice minister’s decision to grant Thaksin parole despite him never being jailed.

“This was unfair to more than 200,000 other inmates,” he said.

Kittisak added that the Senate is also expected to debate the alleged preferential treatment granted to Thaksin during the general debate next month.

He said he believed both Thaksin and his daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, would try to influence the country’s administration. It will be like Thailand is being run by three prime ministers at the same time.

“Now that Thaksin has returned, Srettha will become a planet, not a shining star,” the senator said.