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DR: Dan Rivers
DR: I'm Dan Rivers and you're watching Talk Asia, this week we're talking to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The army justified seizing power in Thailand last September by accusing the government of being endemically corrupt.
They said prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had to be deposed for the good of the country - many expected a mass of evidence against Thaksin to be presented quickly. But so far, there's been none.
Actually baseless allegations, its just a political tools. And I cooperate very well with all relevant agencies, but now they still cannot find any evidence against me!
Speaking exclusively to CNN, Thaksin is now hitting back at the accusations....
Welcome to Talk Asia.
It's been a tumultuous twelve months for you, of course the elections in April then the coup in September that resulted in you being deposed, and then of course most recently those bombs on New Years Eve.
And I'd like to start with those first of all, there are lots of accusations flying around Thailand that you or your allies are somewhere involved in that. For the record now, this is the first time you've spoken since the coup, have you been involved with any of those plots.
TS: Its baseless allegation. No one believes so, because everyone knows that who am I. I come from election, I come from the people, I owe gratitude to our people, I do everything for the good of the country and the people. I don't do something that's stupid.
DR: So you had no involvement?
TS: Not involvement at all. But I would like to express my deepest sympathy for those who lost their loved ones and also all those who are injured. The individuals who involved must be brought to justice.
DR: And who do you think was involved?
TS: Well there are different theories. Some theories they might link the situation to some of the violence in the southern part of Thailand. Some theory may link with those who would like to create a situation where they can, they want to believe that the situation is not normal yet. But in any case, they should be condemned with the strong words.
DR: This is the first time you have spoken since the coup of September the 19th. First of all you were in the United States in New York at the UN when this happened, how did you find out what was going on?
TS: Well I find out just about four, five hours before its happened. But I trying to get into the television station but it's very difficult at that time I cannot get into it until I can get into Channel 9 briefly, but you know which I, its a rumors at the time but I don't believe that this can happen again in the 21st century.
DR: So it was a surprise when it happened?
TS: It's very surprise, but anyway you know, seventy years in Thailand seventeen coups happened, its very unfortunate but its an event that happened here in Thailand.
DR: And what did you say when you found out that you were affectively being ousted?
TS: Well you know I'm a sportsmanship. I, I, I, you know, if it's finished its finished. I understand, I respect, I play by the rules. If it's endorsed, approved then I know that I have to spend my life as a private citizen. So let somebody else do that job and I just would like to give them the moral support.
TS: Running a country is very difficult. Even I don't like the technique, I don't like the way they do it but as a country I would like Thailand to be to be restored with confidence and moving forward so I just would like to give them the moral support to do the best for our country.
DR: We're talking to you in Singapore and the deal with the Singaporeans in which you sold Shin Co, your telecommunications company to Temasek, the Singaporeans, was incredibly controversial, it was what sparked these huge protests against you. In hindsight was that a mistake?
TS: Well you know I traveled to here just to play golf. And meeting some old friends. That's it I don't have any politically motivated purpose and you know like I said I have no political ambition anymore. I want to live my life peacefully, I want to go back to my homeland, I want to go back to my family, that's all I need and you know all the allegations is really you know is a political tools to allege me and to be an excuse for the coup.
DR: Do you think though that you should have paid tax?
TS: Actually you know there are two cases related on taxes. In selling equity through the stock exchange, it's tax exempt by law. If you want to pay tax you cannot pay because it's exempt by law. Anyone that sell equities, that lists in the stock exchange through the stock exchange, there is no tax involved.
DR: But isn't it a question of image and the image is that you are a multimillionaire and you made 1.9 billion dollars through this sale and didn't pay a cent of tax?
TS: Yes but no one, the transaction in the stock exchange has a lot more than 1.9 billion US dollars but no tax involved because it's exempted by law. It's not because of you are a Prime Minister or not Prime Minister you have to pay tax or not pay tax. The law said that you don't have, its no tax involved because the law say that.
DR: But can you understand that there is a perception problem?
TS: Well you know that's the allegation or the you know, sometimes politicians they allege each other, they just want to tarnish your image regardless. But the fact is that you have to go by rule of law. If the law said yes you have to pay tax you got to pay regardless. But when the law said that it's not, no tax involved because that's the incentive that they want the company to list in the stock exchange because the company that list in the stock exchange they must pay tax because they have to declare profit.
DR: And would you go back to Thailand to testify?
TS: If I have to go to testify, I go. But now the reason I'm not going back yet because I want the unity in the country. I want the administration to do the reconciliation. I want everyone to unite, to move the country forward together. Not just like this. Having allegations among Thai people and then you know the conflict is not good for the country. We have to bring back confidence.
DR: So much more to ask you and there will be more from Thaksin Shinawatra, after the break, thank you.
DR: I'm with the former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra. We've been talking about your calls for unity in Thailand. What do you think is going to happen in Thailand now?
TS: Well I have confidence in benevolence of His Majesty the King and the spirit of forgiveness of the Thai culture and the people. And I really want to see the amnesty for, to the all Thais, all Thais, that's in the past, the transgression might happen in imagine or in real. So it's time to reconcile and this may happen soon. If this happens it's means that okay we forgive each others. Things come back to normal and if I were to be able to go back to Thailand, my fervent desire is to bring unity to the country. I'm not going to go back to make, to create problems. I want to go back to bring back the unity to the Thais.
DR: But will you go back to go back into politics?
TS: No, no.
DR: So you go back as a private citizen? (interrupt each other)
TS: Enough is enough. Six years you serve the country. You've been working hard. You sacrifice your time, even your life and even your family life, so its time for me to go back as a private citizen and contribute to the Thai society, outside political arena.
DR: Because at the moment that seems a very unrealistic prospect. The military regime won't even allow your messages to be broadcast in Thailand, this interview probably won't be allowed to broadcast in Thailand?
TS: Well please tell them, don't worry about me. Worry about people. Worry about the country. Moving the country forward, bring back the confidence and restore democracy to the Thai people, that's their duty, don't worry about me, I'm not going to create any problems. Sometimes they worry about me too much.
DR: What about the specific allegations against you of you know massive corruption in Thailand, of nepotism, of abuse of power of breaking multiple laws, what do you say to those charges.
TS: Actually its baseless allegations, it's just a political tool. And I cooperate very well with all relevant agencies, but now they still cannot find any evidence against me. It's just the allegations.
DR: Well I mean you definitely for example appointed your cousin as the commander of the armed forces I mean that's not in dispute.
TS: You know I cannot appoint my cousin who is lieutenant to become a commander in chief. But they must be qualified, because we have the law, we have the rules, we have the principle. Even though he is my cousin, but he moved up his career path until he become a full general, before he can do it. He become a general before I became Prime Minister.
DR: Is there not a conflict of interest though?
TS: No no no no no, you know, he is my cousin but he is, he is a professional military, he moved up from the bottom, he graduate from the army college.
DR: Okay, what about the allegations of fixing the election in April. One of the courts in Thailand has already ruled that Thai Rak Thai your party broke the laws.
TS: No no, there is no cord loose. It's under the constitutional accords. It will be under constitutional accords now and which I denying all the allegations. Its not really a fixed you know it's the election that boycott by the opposition which they have no democratic right to do so.
DR: And what is the future for Thai Rak Thai your party, is it effectively going to be dissolved now is it?
TS: I am just a member now, I am not a party leader anymore, I resigned from
Party leader. Its up to, the future will up to all the members, all the members and the executives, which they will have to convene the meeting and then elect the executive to decide the fate of Thai Rak Thai, but the fate is up to the members, 14 million members. We have 14 million members.
DR: Okay we'll talk more after the break thank you very much Thaksin Shinawatra.
DR: You're watching Talk Asia I'm with the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. You were the first Prime Minister in Thailand's modern history to have served a full term of office. What do you think you learned during that time.
TS: Well I think the Thai people love democracy. And we have to respect them. They, they, they are knowledgeable enough to decide their own future through democracy. And democracy in Thailand has developed very far so it's time to bring it back and return that power to the people.
DR: Obviously the King plays a vital important role in Thai society and in June you made a speech talking about a charismatic figure that you suggested was working against you. Now many people maybe misinterpreted that but took it to imply that you were talking about the King. Would you like to qualify that?
TS: I never, I never never talking about the King in such a way. I really my reverence to the King and devotion to the monarchy, it's constantly all the time in my life. I graduate from police academy, I'm a parachute jumper who always win, also I'm the student with the government scholarship so I owe gratitude to their majesty king and the queen and the people of Thailand.
DR: If you weren't talking about the King who were you talking about?
TS: Well I talking about someone who tried to pull the string behind, that I cannot order the government official to do their proper work that they need to do.
DR: Do you mean General Prem, the head of the privy council?
TS: Well I don't want to mention any names now but I mean those who pulled the strings behind that I'm as a Prime Minister at that time cannot do my work because someone trying to pull the strings behind. That's the reason why I said that but anyway, let bygones be bygones.
DR: What kind of damage has been done to Thailand's image by the coup?
TS: The maturity of democracy. Because people thought that Thailand democracy has been very mature after the Thai Rak Thai won landslide. And when the coup happened in the 21st century which is clearly really bad image for the country. But anyway you know they may do because of they love the country, but anyway we should reconcile all the difference and moving the country forward.
DR: In August a car bomb was found near your house which was taken to be an attempt to assassinate you. Do you still fear for your life?
TS: Well you know everyone have someone who worry about and everyone have the family to take care of. I'm not worry about my life but I still think that my children need to be groomed they're still young. But anyway god can take your life anytime you don't know.
DR: Looking back on last year, was it a mistake to call the election when you did?
TS: Well you know if I were to decide again I still have to call election, there are not other choice. Because of the you know, sometimes in politics you have to respect the rules. If you don't like the rules you may amend it later on.
DR: Looking back on you legacy one of the issues you were grappling with was the violent Islamist insurgency in the south of Thailand. Many people accuse you of being very heavy handed of exacerbating the situation and mishandling it, what would you say to that?
TS: Well you know it's not really, you have to understand iron fist and velvet gloves. For those criminals, for those terrorists you have to use iron fist. But for many of the people who are good people who may mistaken so you have to use the velvet glove. That's the style I'm using but sometime they just try to focus on my iron first but actually I have done a lot on the velvet glove side.
DR: Also as well as the Islamist insurgency the war on drugs I mean that resulted in I think it was 2700 deaths in just seven weeks in 2003?
TS: You know it's not that true. Every year there are some death of criminal due to the fight with the police, it's not just only the drug but they try to calculate everything in the same time. But actually you know my policy is very clear that we have to get tough but we have to go everything by law, by rule of law. I have my PhD in criminal justice, my dissertation is about observance of the rules of law so I always observe the rule of law and I always instruct my people to observe the rule of law.
DR: And you can put your hand in your heart and say you never broke any laws; you never bent the rules in your favor.
TS: I never, I never bend the rules. I never bend the rules. But I'm you know I'm very tough in handling job because I want to get things done but everything is through the rule of law not just trying to set up my own law, set up my own rules, no I'm not a dictator, I'm not a dictator. I come from the people and election. If I'm not good they are not going to re-elect me with a big landslide.
DR: So you will not go back into politics, you are a private Thai citizen, your diplomatic passport has been revoked. What's the future for Thaksin Shinawatra now, what will you do with the rest of your life?
TS: Well I will do more on academic side, do some research, lectures, and do some charity and stay with my family. I want to give back my time to them. Because I spend my time with public service and business for many years so it's time for me to go back to my family.
DR: And you will live where, if you are not allowed back in Thailand where will you end up living?
TS: Well I'm thinking about buying house in London.
DR: And that could be your permanent home?
TS: Not really a permanent home, you know I can have homes in several countries, now we are, I am the citizen of the world and citizen of Thailand as well so I can stay in any place that we have the agreement that the Thai citizen can be residing there.
DR: And your message to the military regime finally that has seized power in Thailand now, what is your message to the generals that now run Thailand?
TS: Well I would like to repeat my call again that don't worry about me. Let's worry about the people, the country, moving the country forward, trying to unite the whole Thai people, reconcile the difference and bring back democracy to the Thai.
DR: Thaksin Shinawatra thank you very much for talking to Talk Asia on CNN.
TS: Most welcome.
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