Thaksin in New York
Although I don’t know if it’s for better or worse, I have been on vacation in New York and missed the coup this week. However, in what seems a creepy twist, I met Thaksin Monday on his last day in power at a luncheon at the Council on Foreign Relations. In town for the UN General Assembly of course, Thaksin was the guest speaker at a small luncheon where he gave a speech ironically titled “The Future of Democracy in Asia” and fielded questions. This was effectively his last day as Prime Minister; everyone woke up the next morning to hear of the news from Bangkok.
Thaksin’s speech focused on what he thought were the key attributes of “Asian Democracy,” comparing it to a child learning how to walk. He said his proudest achievement as PM was the transfer of capital from the central government to the provinces and villages to help the poorest. During the Question and Answer period that followed, the first question was on the sale of Shin Corp, which he defended as the prerogative of his children and saying that capital gains were naturally tax exempt.
But another questioner asked Thaksin if he could ensure that he could return political stability to the Kingdom. Thaksin confidently answered yes: things would get back to normal in a few months and stability would return. Asked if he would rerun as PM, he said he had not decided.
The amazing thing is that the whole time Thaksin must have known what was on the verge of happening. Because the day before, Thaksin had requested his UN Speech be rescheduled for as early in the week as possible. The same day, he had requested a teleconference with Sonthi, but Sonthi never showed up.
In retrospect, Thaksin seemed calm. He sat at an adjacent table eating from a chicken vinaigrette salad and plate of mixed cheeses. During his speech, he joked with the audience.
Outside on 68th Street, however, a small group of Thais were protesting him. After the event, he cut fast, being whisked into a limousine and speeding off in a motorcade.
The next day, the same protesters were cheering outside the UN on 1st Ave, holding signs that said “Thaksin: Born 1949, Died Sept 20, 2006.”