Potjaman set to boost PPP
Thaksin's wife released on 5 million baht bail
SURASAK GLAHAN SUPAWADEE & INTHAWONG WASSANA NANUAM
The return to Thailand of Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, wife of deposed prime minister Thaksin, has profound political implications which could influence the forming of a coalition government, political analysts said yesterday.
Khunying Potjaman's presence in Thailand could facilitate and accelerate negotiations on the forming of a coalition government between the People Power party (PPP) and its potential allies, said political scientist Somjai Phagaphasvivat of Thammasat University.
''Her return will benefit the PPP, which is leading the formation of a government. I believe it is a way to fill a communication gap between the PPP and its allies,'' Mr Somjai said.
The PPP, which won the Dec 23 general election, is largely made up of former MPs of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party founded by Mr Thaksin.
Political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn of Chulalongkorn University agreed, saying it would be easier for the PPP with Khunying Potjaman in the country and able to meet Mr Thaksin's supporters and monitor political movements locally.
''The Shinawatra family seems to be more confident in fighting back because the political situation is tipping in their favour with the PPP in a commanding position after the polls,'' said Mr Panitan.
Her presence could stimulate action by key politicians in forming the coalition government, he said. The Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties have yet to confirm whether they will join the PPPled coalition government.
Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, lower right, wife of deposed prime minister Thaksin, is escorted by police to the Supreme Court to hear corruption charges in connection with the Ratchadaphisek land deal, shortly after her arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday. She was greeted at the court by her lawyers and her children Panthongtae, Paethongtan and Pinthongta. — APICHART JINAKUL
However, the timing of her return was inappropriate because it could instigate more intense political activity, with the election results demonstrating the division between the pro- and antiThaksin camps, said Mr Panitan.
The two political scientists also agreed that Khunying Potjaman's return was aimed at testing the waters before her husband decides when he will come back to fight corruption charges against him.
Members of the Council for National Security (CNS) also feel that Khunying Potjaman's return has political implications.
''They [Khunying Potjaman and Mr Thaksin] want to find out the reaction of the CNS and about their own safety. The CNS believes that Mr Thaksin will come back after the PPP forms the government,'' a source close to the CNS said.
CNS spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the CNS welcomed Khunying Potjaman's return as it would get the legal process started.
Mr Thaksin posted a statement on his website, www.truethaksin.com, giving the reasons for his wife's return. He said she came home to pay respects to the late Princess Galyani Vadhana on behalf of the family. She was also willing to fight the cases against her and prove her innocence under the rule of law.
Mr Thaksin said he was ready to return to prove his innocence, but did not want to be the cause of conflict in the country.
After arriving at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday from Hong Kong, Khunying Potjaman was escorted by police to the Supreme Court's Crime Division for Holders of Political Positions to face corruption charges in connection with the Ratchadaphisek land deal.
The case involves the 772-millionbaht purchase of land from the Financial Institutions Development Fund in 2003. She won the auction for the land, but the Assets Scrutiny Committee found that her husband used his position as prime minister to influence the deal.
Khunying Potjaman was accompanied by her three grown-up children, her lawyers and some PPP politicians, including deputy party leader Samphan Lertnuwat, when she met the court's judges.
After less than an hour, the court released her on bail of five million baht and prohibited her from leaving the country without the court's permission.
The court set Jan 23 as the date for the opening of the trial.
Khunying Potjaman did not take questions from the huge crowd of reporters. She then reported to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to defend herself against charges of concealing ownership of shares in her family business, SC Asset.
DSI chief Sunai Manomai-udom said she denied all the charges and said she would provide evidence in rebuttal.
Khunying Potjaman was released on one-million-baht bail and also barred from going overseas unless she obtained permission from investigators.
Mr Thaksin's legal adviser Noppadon Pattama said his client would return in mid-April, as earlier announced.
Khunying Potjaman would not leave the country and would show up for the first court hearing as scheduled, he said.