Threat of Exiled Government Unpopular with Junta

 | Fri 6 Jun 2014 20:58 ICT

On 3rd June, Jakrapob Penkair, a former foreign affair minister, announced plans to create a government in exile, following considerations following what the “red shirts” describe as an illegal military coup.

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Following comments made on May 29th by Robert Amsterdam, council to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the pro-democracy red shirt movement, serious considerations are being made to form a new Thai government in exile. Amsterdam stated that even now the only organisation in Thailand with a popular and legal mandate is the Pheu Thai Party, which won with landslide results in the 2011 general elections.

In the statement made, Mr. Amsertdam also claimed that several foreign governments have expressed willingness to support the formation of an exiled government under current international laws and practices, though as yet no government has corroborated his claim.

It was initially speculated that this could be Cambodia, previously playing host to political events by Thaksin and his supporters. However, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has clearly refused this suggestion, stating that “Cambodia’s constitution does not allow any foreigners to use its territory as a base for armed forces to attack a government of another state.” Despite Hun Sen’s deep and close relationship to the Shinawatra family, Cambodia has chosen to keep out of Thai internal politics, which would otherwise risk high tensions between the two ASEAN countries. As part of the ASEAN treaty, member countries are not to meddle in one another’s political affairs.

A reported statement to foreign media made by Jakrapob, a self-exiled founding member of the red shirt movement on June 3rd, displayed a clear effort to create an “organisation on foreign soil.” This must not be confused with a “government in exile,” which has greater international recognition with the aim to one day return and formally take over control. If headed by Jakrapob alone, a government in exile would lack support internationally. By labelling it as an organisation instead, Jakrapob hopes to be able to draw support from foreign countries without creating serious diplomatic divides between Thailand and the West. It was also stated that Thaksin would not play a “direct role.”

Army deputy spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree, in response to Jakrapob’s statement, said that the military junta must be cautious to act upon allegations that so far are not conclusive. The current laws set out by the National Council for Peace and Order (NPCO) forbids any form of political opponent or protest against the junta. Winthai suggested that reasoning with Jakrapob would be their first attempt.

Restrictions upon the country are expected to be slowly lifted, along with the appointment of an interim government. Criticism of the junta is likely to remain illegal indefinitely, and the junta still insists that they will return the country to democratic elections after reform, giving a time frame of about one year and three months before this could be realised.

If what Jakrapob said becomes reality, Thailand will most certainly experience greater polarisations between political ideas. Being in exile will cause the censorship of this organisation or “self-exiled government” to be extremely difficult for the junta. If the junta stick to their words, promising democratic elections after reform, perhaps the red shirt movement should hold its guns temporarily and not risk being exiled forever.

With Thailand stuck at a junction, the next step will be the deciding factor of the country’s future. Now, we wait and see, as the true outcome over the next year will be for us to observe and comment (non-critically) on.