Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fugitive Thaksin denies Thai PM ambitions

Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of toppled premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the prime ministerial candidate for the country's biggest opposition Pheu Thai Party, greets her supporters during an election campaign in Bangkok. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY - FUGITIVE Thai ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has denied he wants to be leader again and insists youngest sister Yingluck, who is challenging for the post, is not his puppet.

In a rare television interview at his luxury home in Dubai, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline programme he was confident his Puea Thai party would win elections due in July.

'According to the polls of many institutions, including our interim report, we are confident that we are winning,' said Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives abroad to escape a jail term for graft.

The polls will pit his sister Yingluck Shinawatra against his arch-foe, current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the elite-backed Democrat Party, in what is expected to be a closely fought battle.

Yingluck is politically inexperienced and many in Thailand feel her nomination as the opposition candidate for premier confirms Thaksin's central role in the kingdom's political landscape despite living in exile.

Thaksin, hailed by many rural and working class Thais for his populist policies for the masses but loathed by the Bangkok-based elite, which sees him as corrupt and authoritarian, admitted he still has influence. 'Well, I may influence in terms of the ideas and thinking because I have more experience than others and then I just want to see them have success,' he told the programme which aired late on Monday. -- AFP

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