Thai anti-graft body wants Thaksin papers

BANGKOK, Reuters

A key committee of Thailand’s anti-graft watchdog has decided prime ministerial hopeful Thaksin Shinawatra should be indicted for not declaring assets as required by law, Thai newspapers reported on Friday.

The Daily Bangkok Post quoted unidentified sources as saying, the National Counter Corruption Commission’s (NCCC) investigating subcommittee had cleared Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai of similar charges by a separate investigation.

The nine members of the NCCC’s graft panel are due to meet next week to decide whether to proceed against Thaksin, who is favorite to win Thailand’s general election on Jan. 6.

NCCC officials were not available for immediate comment.

Thaksin, 51, is accused of failing to declare share transactions and stakes in 17 companies during the mid-90s, thereby concealing his wealth when he was a cabinet minister.

If Thaksin is indicted by the NCCC and found guilty by Thailand’s Constitutional Court, he could be banned from politics for five years.

Thaksin has denied any wrongdoing and said any inaccuracies in his asset declarations were the result of oversight.

Responding to questions about the newspaper reports, Thaksin accused Chuan’s Democrat Party of trying to stop him and his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) winning power.

“Presumably, the Democrat Party knows this is the only way to beat Thai Rak Thai. The Democrats have done so much to damage the country that they resort to subtle ways to beat … and disqualify Thai Rak Thai,” he told reporters.

“I will not let politics crush me,” he said. “Thai Rak Thai will emerge on top regardless of the pressure.”

A spokesman for Thai Rak Thai told Reuters, the NCCC had not reached any official conclusion and the newspaper report amounted to “just opinions of members of its subcommittee”.

“The NCCC is not compelled to follow the opinions of the subcommittee and we don’t know what would be its official decision,” said Suranan Vejjajiva. “We still hope that the NCCC would treat Thai Rak Thai fairly.”

The multimillionaire founder of the Shin Corp telecoms group, Thaksin, is one of Thailand’s richest men and has poured his wealth into a campaign to become prime minister.

He is well ahead of Chuan in the race to lead Thailand, according to opinion polls.

It is far from clear what would happen to Thai Rak Thai should Thaksin be banned from politics.

Some political analysts have said the party’s backers, which include many senior military men as well as some supporters of Thailand’s last coup in 1991, might consider trying to take power if Thaksin were banned.

But most analysts dismiss any talk of a military coup as exaggerated and say all major figures in Thailand are firmly committed to constitutional democracy.

Thaksin said he did not think public support for Thai Rak Thai was likely to wane.

“People have made up their minds not to give the Democrat Party a continued mandate to run the country,” he said. “I restate my commitment to be in politics until people can overcome poverty, in whatever role I play.”