- House and Senate negotiators reach two-year budget deal
- Congress seeks ban on in-flight calls
- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
Thailand’s fugitive leader plans to visit tsunami area
Critics say Thaksin trying to polish image
TOKYO — Thailand’s self-exiled former prime minister is planning to visit tsunami survivors this week as part of a charm offensive to restore his international reputation.
Japanese authorities this month granted a visitor’s visa to Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and convicted in absentia of corruption in 2008. His younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, became Thailand’s first female prime minister earlier this month.
News of Thaksin’s visa, which was granted upon an official request from the Thai government, has sparked outrage among opposition politicians and critics in Thailand and Japan.
They say he is trying to use disaster victims to launder his image in order to smooth his return to Thailand, where he remains the most adored, hated and feared leader in a political culture weakened by coups and corruption.
“Thaksin obviously wants to use the Japan trip to help facilitate a possible push for his amnesty later,” Tulsathit Taptim, editor-in-chief of the Nation newspaper in Bangkok, told The Washington Times.
“His Japan trip, however, is being viewed internationally as an unwise step that would weaken his sister politically. Even some of Thaksin’s own supporters are feeling that Thaksin should halt his controversial activities for his sister’s sake.”
Human rights groups have accused Thaksin of sanctioning the killing of thousands of drug users and southern Thai Muslims during his five-year rule, and critics note his failure in emergency management.
When the 9.1-magnitude earthquake hit off the Indonesian island of Sumatra in December 2004, Thaksin’s government in Bangkok failed to broadcast a tsunami warning on Thai TV or notify officials in Burma, India and Sri Lanka that a killer wave was heading their way.
Thousands died across the Indian Ocean, including more than 8,000 Thais and foreign tourists in Phuket and Phang-nga provinces of Thailand.
After the 2004 tsunami, Thaksin tried to channel the outpouring of global sympathy to his personal advantage, and his party won a disputed election that opposition parties boycotted.
A survey by Assumption University in Bangkok last weekend found that 70 percent of Thais oppose Thaksin’s international maneuvering.
While most Japanese, especially rural tsunami survivors, have never heard of Thaksin, some are questioning how the government could allow him to follow in the footsteps of the emperor and other respected world leaders who have visited the disaster victims.
“With a two-year jail term waiting for him in Thailand if he returns there, I say Japan [should] arrest him at the airport and stick this thieving scum bag on a one-way flight to Bangkok,” said “Exportexpert” on a popular chat site in Japan.
“He is a fugitive from justice. But being that corrupt criminals run Japan, he will get a big welcome and afforded all the diplomatic privileges.”
Thaksin will give speeches at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand and the Academy of Japan on Tuesday, and likely will meet with Japanese politicians Wednesday.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Harry Reid's visa pressure cooker
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Galaxy S4 owner claims Samsung tried to silence him after phone caught fire
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow