After hearing about the government stripping him of his police rank and royal decoration, fugitive ex-PM Shinawatra Thaksin sent a Twitter note yesterday, saying: “Thanks for your concern about the government’s revocation of my royal decorations and police rank. This can be expected of this government… If they could use the law to kill me, they would have done so a long time ago.
“Theoretically, the law-enforcement side is created to maintain peace and justice. Law must be enforced fairly and equally, but the government opts to exercise the law to serve a political goal.”
But Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva responded by saying government leaders were not involved in the pending revocation of Thaksin’s police rank and royal awards.
“The process of stripping him of his official honours is routine for convicts and is not a policy decision to fault him,” Abhisit said, adding that the honours were being revoked in accordance with police regulations and relevant provisions.
The prime minister went on to explain that the Royal Thai Police had gone to great lengths to consult the Council of State instead of making an arbitrary decision to revoke Thaksin’s rank of police lieutenant colonel.
The Cabinet Secretariat, which is in charge of royal decorations, had also sought legal advice on the matter.
The prime minister said all parties concerned, including Thaksin, were obliged to abide by precedents and prescribed sanctions against officers who became convicts. Other former police who had been convicted also had their rank and any decorations revoked, he said.
The process of revoking Thaksin’s honours is expected to take a few months and requires a royal command first. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is in charge of police affairs, said he expected the revocation to be a routine matter in line with precedents.
He said the issue should not be politicised because Thaksin was being treated just like any other convict. PM’s Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey said two agencies – the Police Bureau and the Cabinet Secretariat – were jointly responsible for the recall of Thaksin’s rank and decorations.
Police would have to initiate proceedings in regard to rank granted to Thaksin when he served with the force and the Cabinet Secretariat was in charge of revoking the royal decorations granted to him after his discharge, Satit said.
Recipients of royal decorations have honours rescinded once they are sentenced to a jail term with the exception of misdemeanour and certain violations.
Police spokesman Lt-Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen said the process of stripping Thaksin of his rank would start once the Council of State’s legal opinion had been received and acknowledged.
In reply to a legal request from the police, the Council of State said the intent of police regulations was to punish convicted officers who were sentenced to jail because it was seen as a disgrace. Thaksin’s case fell under the prescribed regulations, regardless of which court handed down the sentence.
Police have also sought legal opinion on whether Thaksin’s rank should be recalled as he was convicted over a conflict of interest by the Supreme Court’s tribunal for political office holders. In previous cases, former police officers had their ranks stripped once they were sentenced to jail. However, none of these officers faced a verdict from the tribunal.
Meanwhile, the red shirts are threatening to hold a rally in Chiang Mai next month to show solidarity with Thaksin, causingconcern that street protests may aim at ousting the government. Thaksin’s legal adviser Noppadon Pattama has also warned about tensions if the government insists on stripping the former PM of his honours.
“Thaksin has earned his recognition and royal decorations as a servant of His Majesty,” he said, adding that the government was not justified in trying to humiliate Thaksin. The former PM’s punishment over the Ratchadapisek land case was politically motivated, he claimed, and took place after the 2006 coup. So it could not be considered ground for stripping him of his rank and decorations.
Noppadon said Thaksin’s case was not about corruption even though the conviction and sentencing was based on the National Anti-Corruption Act. He also pointed out that the rank and decorations given to other convicted military and police officers weren’t always revoked.