Thaksin lawyer suspects fraud in Thai election
I spoke this week with Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer whose made a name for himself in recent years representing prominent business and political leaders who’ve fallen afoul of authoritarian regimes, including Russia’s Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Singapore’s Chee Soon Juan. Amsterdam is currently representing former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a ...
I spoke this week with Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer whose made a name for himself in recent years representing prominent business and political leaders who've fallen afoul of authoritarian regimes, including Russia's Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Singapore's Chee Soon Juan.
I spoke this week with Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer whose made a name for himself in recent years representing prominent business and political leaders who’ve fallen afoul of authoritarian regimes, including Russia’s Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Singapore’s Chee Soon Juan.
Amsterdam is currently representing former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a miltiary coup in 2006 and has filed a petition on his behalf in the International Criminal Court against current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, accusing him of the massacre of civilians during last year’s Red Shirt protests.
Although currently living in exile in Dubai and facing a wide array of criminal charges in his home country, Thaksin is certainly still a factor in this week’s Thai election, in which the Puea Thai party led by his sister Yingluck is currently leading in the polls. But Amsterdam isn’t ruling out foul play by the Thai government, pointing to recent reports of ballot irregularities:
Whether it will be an army coup or the kind of fraud we’ve already been seeing – it’s come out that not only are the ballots mismarked with the Puea Thai emblem very small but on the actual ballot, if you mark the Puea Thai spot, the ink is drying and you can’t see the vote.
Even now that we’ve seen the polls — showing that majority have turned to Puea Thai – with all the forces arrayed against the people of Thailand, – whether the government they want will be elected is a big question mark.
Amstedam also drew parallels between the Thai opposition and recent developments in the Arab world, saying that the Red Shirts "see themselves as the beginning of the Jasmine Revolution" and wondering why the United States continues to provide support to a military whose "only successes seem to be against unarmed civilians." He also accused the Western financial press and business interests of accepting the Thai government’s demonization of Thaksin and the Red Shirts:
The western financial industry seems to be supporting the continued rule of the Democrats, even though it’s clear they’re not the party the majority of people want. Somehow the narrative has emerged that Thailand being governed by a government that is not popular is more stable than being governed by a government that is popular. I think that’s pretty frightening. You would think after the Arab Spring and what’s happened in Russia with Putin, that we in financial circles and the western media would stop voting for autocracy.
The Thai government has attempted to protray Yingluck as a proxy candidate for her brother, aimed solely at rehabilitating him. I asked Amsterdam how involved his client was in the Puea Thai campaign. He said he couldn’t be sure, but that Yingluck "has turned out to be a dream candidate. If you watch this woman campaign, she seems to have it all — not only the right answers but a really moderated tone. There’s this real electoral prodigy out there, and she just happens to be Thaksin’s sister."
Whether that’s enough will become clear on Sunday.
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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