Thailand’s powerful military will respect a landslide election win by allies of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who it toppled five years ago, the defense minister said yesterday, easing fears of another coup.
Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a 44-year-old political novice now set to become the kingdom’s first female prime minister, announced a coalition deal with four smaller parties to bolster her hold on power.
Thailand’s outgoing defense minister, himself a retired general, said that the army accepted the election outcome, easing fears of fresh military intervention in a country that has seen almost as many coups as elections.
“I have talked to military leaders. We will allow politicians to work it out. The military will not get involved,” Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said. “The people have spoken clearly, so the military cannot do anything. We accept it.”
Thaksin has vowed not to seek revenge over a deadly military crackdown on his “Red Shirt” supporters in Bangkok last year that claimed the lives of more than 90 people and left major downtown buildings in flames.
However, in a sign of the difficult balancing act he faces, the Red Shirts urged their political allies to establish the facts behind the army operation, which saw soldiers firing live ammunition storm the Red Shirts’ rally camp.
“During the election campaign, political parties have to present their policies to people, but once they become the government, it’s the government’s job to find the truth,” a Red Shirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said.
The Puea Thai Party — masterminded by Thaksin from his self-imposed exile in Dubai — won 265 seats out of 500 in the lower house, the election commission said yesterday after the vote count was completed.
That was well ahead of the 159 secured by outgoing Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s -establishment-backed Democrats, who conceded defeat after two-and-a-half years in power. Abhisit resigned as party leader after the results.
Puea Thai was quick to reach out to potential partners, partly to protect against possible future defections or the disqualification of some of its winning candidates in Sunday’s vote.
Together the five coalition partners hold 299 of the 500 seats.
Thaksin said yesterday that he had no plan to return to office himself and that setting foot back in Thailand was not a priority.
“I’ve been with the party too long and I really want to retire,” Thaksin told reporters in Dubai where he lives to avoid a jail term for corruption.
A more important factor may be whether the new government pursues legal or other steps against the generals over the bloody crackdown against last year’s mass opposition demonstrations in the heart of Bangkok.
“I believe the military leaders are more concerned about their fates ... than about Thaksin’s return,” said Thongchai Winichakul, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The Thaksin issue is a smoke-screen to hide their real concern — whether they would be investigated and possibly punished.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised its travel alert for Thailand from “gray” to “yellow” on Sunday amid possible political uncertainty following the election.
The yellow alert — the second-lowest ranking in the ministry’s four-color-coded travel advisory system — reminds travelers to heighten vigilance over their personal safety and suggests visitors reconsider their travel plans.
Taiwanese travelers should stay away from political rallies and keep themselves informed of developments while traveling in Thailand, the ministry said, adding that in the case of an emergency, travelers should contact Taiwan’s representative offices in Bangkok.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
THAI CASE UPDATE: Twenty-nine close contacts of the worker have been tested with two types of tests, including 18 dorm mates, with 28 negative results so far Five imported cases of COVID-19, four from the Philippines and one from Hong Kong, were reported yesterday, bringing the total confirmed cases in Taiwan to 467, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The four returning from the Philippines were on the same flight, and the local health department has identified 15 people who had direct contact with them — including 10 passengers in the two rows in front or behind them, who have been put under 14-day home isolation, and five crew members, who will practice 14-day self-health management, said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang