Friday, October 23, 2009

Chavalit, a man on a mission

Ex-PM has four major plans to save Thailand

Published: 23/10/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

When Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh decided to join the opposition Puea Thai Party as its chairman, many political observers believed his mission was to pave the way for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return home.

Gen Chavalit gives an exclusive interview to the Bangkok Post at his Nonthaburi condo. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

He does not deny that, but says forgiveness is the first step to national reconciliation.

However, whether Thaksin comes home to serve his jail term or not is another issue. ''What I want to see is all of the conflicting parties forgive each other,'' Gen Chavalit said.

Thaksin was sentenced to two years in jail after being found guilty in a case that resulted from his former wife, Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, purchasing a block of land from the Financial Institutions Rehabilitation Fund.

Gen Chavalit, who announced his retirement from politics about a year ago when he resigned as deputy prime minister in the Somchai Wongsawat administration, said he decided to return to politics because he thought the country was breaking apart and he had to help stop that happening.

Bringing reconciliation to the country was one of the four missions he aimed to complete, and the forming of a ''national government'' was the only way to do that, Gen Chavalit told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Although Gen Chavalit did not say it specifically, he implied he believed there would be a general election very soon and the Puea Thai Party would win the most seats in the House. ''Then I would offer all of the parties [the opportunity] to join a coalition government and that would be the only way to bring reconciliation to the country,'' he said.

On the rift between the red and yellow shirts, Gen Chavalit said he had come up with his ''spark of fire in the field'' theory. ''If you spark fires in a scattered fashion in a field, the fire will eventually light the whole field,'' he said.

Gen Chavalit said he had been encouraging small groups of red and yellow shirt supporters in many areas to sit down and settle their political differences, which he believed would be followed up by a settlement of their divisions on a larger scale.

If the conflicts were not resolved, they could eventually develop into bloodshed, he said.

Earlier, Gen Chavalit had offered himself as a ''middle link in the chain'' to bring the two conflicting groups together, but his offer was ignored.

Gen Chavalit said he had not paid attention to the present charter amendment bid as he did not believe it would be able to bring about reconciliation.

The second mission he had set out to complete was to prove to the public that Thaksin and his followers were loyal to the monarchy.

The third mission was to end the unrest in the South. He is scheduled to go to the region and hold ''secret talks'', but he declined to elaborate.

Gen Chavalit also planned to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak early next month.

''The unrest in the South is one of the main concerns for the country's security as outside organisations are stepping in to intervene, so we have to solve it urgently before it becomes more complex,'' he said.

The last mission was to help settle all misunderstandings between Thailand and neighbouring countries.

He defended his recent visit to Cambodia as part of this mission as he and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen have been friends for a long time. As friends, he said, it was easier to settle disputes between the two countries.

Thailand and Cambodia are in dispute over the area surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

He also plans to visit Malaysia next month and Burma later.

When asked why he had set the missions only after joining Puea Thai, Gen Chavalit said it needed political status to support the moves to complete the missions.

''But I really want to help save the country, and not cause any uneasiness for the [Democrat-led] government.''

Gen Chavalit could not say when the missions would be completed, but he would try his best to achieve success as quickly as possible.

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