20:48, February 28, 2008
Thaksin’s return: a hero’s welcome, a humble posture
There is no doubt that Feb. 28, 2007 belongs to Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand.After 17 months of self-exile abroad since ousted in a military coup, Thailand’s ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was welcomed by supporters as a hero when he stepped out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and kissed the soil of his motherland.
The airport, a mega-project whose completion was deemed one of the accomplishments of Thaksin’s administration 2001-2005, was mobbed by thousands of Thaksin’s supporters Thursday morning, among whom were farmers who had traveling several hundred kilometers from the north and northeast and taxi drivers and motorists in Bangkok, representing the staunchest group of supporters in urban and rural poor for Thaksin.
Though they failed to get a close glimpse of the ex-premier, who was tight escorted by security staff, aides and senior government officials, and surrounded by an army of reporters and cameramen on the frontline, their hail of his name and banners of “Thaksin Welcome Home” and “We Love Thaksin” got a smile and greeting by Thaksin.
Anti-Thaksin camps, led by the reactivated People’s Alliance of Democracy (PAD), which acted as catalyzer for Thaksin’s downfall in 2006 by launching mass street protests in Bangkok, have refrained from appearing in any way at the airport or other part of the capital.
A protest will definitely be overwhelmed, if not intimidated, by the celebrative mood. Local media, many of whom had thrown sharp criticism on the ex-premier and his administration, was kept busy throughout the day following up every leg of Thaksin, and expected to continue so in the next few days.
Different from the joyous emotion of his supporters, the ex-premier appeared weary and kept a very low-key posture ever since his first step on the soil after 17 months of absence.
After released on bail by the Supreme Court and Office of the Attorney General, where he faces charges of abuse of power and asset concealment, the ex-premier held a brief press conference at Bangkok’s Peninsula Hotel, where he would stay for the night.
Thaksin spoke to the press for less than ten minutes, appearing as a family man and a patriotic Thai unfairly treated and tired of political chaos.
“I definitely will stay out of politics,”he opened his statement with this remark.
He said he had planned to return to Thailand ever since Sept. 20, 2006, the second day after the military top brass toppled him in a coup while he was attending a United Nations meeting in New York. And he decided this was the proper time now that Thailand is returning to the normal track of democratic rule under a Constitutional Monarchy after the country held a general election in Dec. 23, 2007 and had a new elected government.
He said he had returned to defend his and his family’s reputation which has been tarnished by “unfair” allegations and charges by junta-appointed bodies.
He said he would no longer enter politics, and as a 59-year-oldman, he wished to live quietly and peacefully with his family as a normal Thai citizen.
“I have traveled around the world, but I have found that there is no other place
as warm and happy to me as my home country Thailand. I want to live the rest of
my life here.”
He also called for all sides never to allow differences of opinions cause division in the society and affect national unity.
The ex-premier then retreated with his family, leaving his aides to take questions of media.
He cited tiredness for his refusal to answer questions.
“Allow me some time to enjoy a bowl of beef rice noodle (a traditional Thai