Thaksin Hints He would Leave Campaign if Found Guilty
Leading prime ministerial candidate Thaksin Shinawatra Monday hinted he may quit the campaign trail if charges of corruption are upheld against him.
While campaigning in Bangkok, Thaksin told reporters: "I will accept what the decision is and will work behind the scenes if I can't hold the premiership position."
"Being Prime Minister is not as important as solving the country's problems," said Thaksin, who is leading the upstart Thai Rak Thai party into the January 6 national election against the ruling Democrats and a host of smaller parties.
Thaksin is being probed by the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) for concealing assets when he served as deputy Prime Minister in 1997.
Bangkok newspapers Friday said the committee investigating the charges had recommended Thaksin be indicted for violating disclosure rules, an offence which could earn him a five-year ban from politics.
The committee's recommendation is currently being heard by the NCCC.
But Thaksin could appeal an NCCC guilty decision through Thailand's Constitutional Court.
If Thaksin is found guilty but lodges an appeal, the Constitutional Court will not be able to decide his case prior to the national election. This could lead to Thaksin becoming Prime Minister only to later be barred from politics.
His comments Monday however hinted that he might not appeal to the Constitutional Court if the NCCC decides against him.
But Thaksin also warned voters to remember that the NCCC still had made no ruling.
"There was only a subcommittee decision, nothing by the NCCC," he said.
And Thaksin also attempted to allay fears that Thailand could be stranded in a political vaccuum if his party wins the January 6 polls and he is subsequently banned.
"There are many people in the party suitable for the premiership position ... People vote for Thai Rak Thai because they are satisfied with the party's policy, not because I am party leader," he said.
Thai Rak Thai is widely tipped to win the upcoming national election and is running ahead in most polls.
The NCCC's nine-member board is to meet Tuesday to decide whether to endorse its investigating committee's findings. Six of the commissioners must vote for indictment or Thaksin will escape punishment.
Thaksin has testified that he never purposefully intended to conceal any assets.
In testimony before the anti-graft body earlier this month, Thaksin said he simply forgot to disclose a shareholding worth 15 million dollars -- just 2.5 percent of his vast fortune.
And he said other irregularities were caused by confusion regarding the rules governing asset declarations which changed under the 1997 anti-corruption constitution -- BANGKOK (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)