File photo shows former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Manchester, north-west England
Supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans during a protest in Bangkok
(Posted by CAAI News Media)
LONDON — Fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra urged the reform of institutions around Thailand's revered monarchy, a report said Monday, amid tensions over his impending visit to neighbouring Cambodia.
Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006, said that 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej was above politics but that "circles" around the palace were interfering with the running of the country.
The tycoon is living abroad to avoid jail and gave the interview to The Times in Dubai, but is set to visit Phnom Penh this week in his new capacity as economic adviser to the Cambodian government.
"That's the problem in Thailand. The monarchy is not the problem. The monarchy is good for Thailand. Thailand needs to have a monarchy but it should not be abused or played by the palace circles," he was quoted as saying.
Asked if the "royal institution" needed reform, he said: "Yes, yes."
"I can assure you His Majesty is above (politics), but those in the circle have a network," he said.
"They want to get rid of me because they say I am trying to turn Thailand into a republic and topple the monarchy. That's not true. I have a very high respect for the monarchy and royal family."
Thaksin's supporters have targeted the house of the king's main adviser, former general Prem Tinsulanonda, during several protests this year and accused Prem of orchestrating the coup three years ago.
Thaksin's comments remain sensitive in a country where insulting or defaming the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Three people were arrested recently for spreading rumours about the health of the 81-year-old king, who has been in hospital for nearly two months with a lung infection and fever.
Twice-elected Thaksin has riled the Thai government by accepting an offer by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week to work as economics guru to the government in Phnom Penh.
He is set to deliver a lecture on economics on the Cambodian capital on Thursday, with some reports saying he could arrive there as soon as Tuesday, although there was no confirmation from his aides or from Phnom Penh.
Bangkok says it will seek his extradition if he travels to Cambodia but Cambodia has vowed to refuse, saying the graft charges that saw Thaksin sentenced to two years in jail in absentia last year are politically motivated.