SEOUL (Reuters) - Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, said on Tuesday he had no plans to mobilize his “Red Shirt” supporters but called the first year of the junta government which came to power in a coup “not so impressive”.
Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail sentence handed down for graft in 2008, has rarely spoken about Thai politics since the military toppled the remnants of the government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a year ago.
Yingluck was removed from office days before the army staged the 2014 coup after months of protests in Bangkok. She has since been banned from politics for five years, and faces a possible jail term over her role in a money losing rice subsidy scheme.
Thaksin, who was in the South Korean capital to speak at a conference, told Reuters there was no plan for his son, Oak, to take over leadership of the Puea Thai Party.
He called on the Thai people not to resort to violence.
“No, we want to see the government be a success, but it’s difficult, as you can imagine,” Thaksin said on the sidelines of the conference, when asked if there were any plans to mobilize his “Red Shirt” supporters.
“It’s not so impressive yet,” he said of the first year of the military government. “They have to work harder. They have to understand the world, and the mentality of the people who have been in democracy for many years.
“I think democracy will prevail sooner or later, but we have to be patient, and we have to be peaceful,” he said. “Don’t resort to any kind of violence.”
Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said last week that he was not worried about Thaksin’s public appearance or whatever comments he might make.
The military ousted Thaksin in 2006, exacerbating a sharp divide between his supporters in the poorer north and northeast and the traditional royalist-military establishment in the capital and the south.
More than a decade of political strife has seen at times violent street protests from both Thaksin supporters and their opponents.
With bases in Dubai and London, Thaksin travels frequently in Asia.
Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait and Jeremy Laurence