After nearly two years of relative quiet, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s controversial former prime minister, has gone on a media offensive with a series of interviews lashing out at the country’s military government and its proposed constitution.
Thaksin, who has been living in self-imposed exile for almost 10 years since a coup forced him from office, spoke to Al Jazeera and several other news organisations on Tuesday.
He used the interviews to criticise the current military government’s draft constitution, which was unveiled last month, with plans to hold national elections by the end of 2017.
“I see [the country going] backward more than forward. So, this is why we start to worry. And when it comes to the draft constitution, [this] is the worst constitution ever,” Thaksin told Al Jazeera, comparing it with something that could have been written in North Korea.
“I think the situation will not allow them to enjoy the power that much because of the way they run the country. Any regime that is careless about their own people will not last long,” he said.
The military government headed by General Prayuth Chan-ocha came to power in May 2014 in a coup in which Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was removed from office.
At the time, the military said it wanted to reconcile the major differences between the two main opposing political sides in Thailand: the Bangkok-based establishment and Thaksin, Yingluck and their allies, who have regularly won the support of the country’s rural populace.
Shinawatra-backed parties have won every general election since 2001.
“The military keep urging publicly that they want to do reconciliation … They want to move the country forward, but this is one-and-a-half years [later], and there is no sign of reconciliation,” Thaksin told Al Jazeera.
“Vice versa …They are really siding with one side and then pressuring the other side.”
After Thaksin had given the series of interviews this week – including to the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Reuters – Thailand’s military government responded by saying it was not willing to engage with the former prime minister over the drafting of the constitution.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post , government spokesman Major General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said: “This charter is written to combat corrupt people so they should not be allowed to jointly draft or hold talks on it.”
Thaksin was removed from office over corruption allegations and was later sentenced in absentia to two years in prison in 2008.
Since taking power, Human Rights Watch says the military government has “banned political activity and peaceful public gatherings; criminalised freedom of expression; made hundreds of arbitrary arrests; and held detainees in incommunicado military detention without safeguards against abuses.”