Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shrugged off a viral tweet by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday apparently comparing the Thai authorities to tyrants in relation to the case against his youngest sister Yingluck who fled the country last week.
Gen Prayut suggested the tweet — Thaksin’s first in two years — would only be taken seriously by people bereft of critical thinking skills. Thaksin quoted a French philosopher to imply the military regime is using the justice system as a shield to serve its own ends.
“Let him do it. He has tweeted it. What would you do? If you want to believe him, it depends on you. Think about it. Use your brain,” Gen Prayut said.
Thaksin message, issued in both Thai and English on his @ThaksinLive Twitter account, read in full: “Montesquieu once said ‘There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice’.”
It came five days after Ms Yingluck was suspected of having fled the country to avoid a potential jail sentence for criminal negligence in a Supreme Court ruling on her administration’s rice-pledging case which the government claims cost it in excess of 500 billion baht.
Sources say she made her way to Cambodia where she boarded her private jet to Singapore before flying on to Dubai where Mr Thaksin, himself ousted in a 2006 coup, spends at least part of his time in self-imposed exile to avoid criminal charges in Thailand.
Railing against the provocative tweet, Warong Dechgitvigrom, a former Democrat MP, said Mr Thaksin was unable to bargain with the court of justice about his sister’s case so he tried to link the court’s judgement to the actions of notorious dictators from the annals of history.
“We must stand firm and help the country deal with these people by placing our trust in the country’s legal system,” Dr Warong posted on his Facebook page. “Any cheaters must be punished. Our democracy must be based on the public interest.”
“No tyrant would be as barbaric as a capitalist one, who only claims to hold elections and have a majority in order to commit malfeasance and exonerate themselves without a care for the public,” he posted.
Ms Yingluck failed to appear at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Friday to hear the ruling in her rice scheme trial. Her no-show shocked the nation and triggered rumours the regime had abetted her escape to avoid political clashes and protests in the event she was found guilty and jailed.
The former premier, who was removed by the Constitutional Court in 2016 for abusing her power shortly before the Prayut-led coup, stands accused of dereliction of duty for failing to properly administer the rice scheme.
Prosecutors claim this led to corruption as well as mammoth state losses. If convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison. An arrest warrant was issued for her immediately and the court rescheduled delivery of its judgement to Sept 27.
Mr Thaksin has often blamed injustice in the Thai judicial system for his decision to flee and escape his trial.
He left the country in 2008 before the Supreme Court was due to hand him a two-year sentence for abusing his power in relation to a land deal in Bangkok’s Ratchada area.
Acting Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai avoided referring to Mr Thaksin’s tweet yesterday. He said the party, whose future looks increasingly bleak given Ms Yingluck’s departure, will stick to its ideology of fighting for freedom and democracy.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minster Prawit Wongsuwon said Ms Yingluck’s escape would not undermine the public’s confidence in the government or the National Council for Peace and Order.
National police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda said yesterday officers are in contact with their foreign counterparts to find the clues about Ms Yingluck’s whereabouts.
His deputy, Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, is responsible for conducting the search, he said.
Sources close to the government and Shinawatra family suggested Ms Yingluck may have fled late last Wednesday or early the next morning.
Referring to the 14 people who are believed to have spent time with the former premier at a hotel that evening, Pol Gen Srivara said police are considering summoning them for questioning.