A jail sentence imposed on former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for graft will add vigour to the street campaign trying to topple the present government led by his supporters, a protest leader said on Wednesday.
The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), whose supporters have occupied the prime minister's official compound since August, said the verdict vindicated their long-running campaign against Thaksin and what they call his puppet regime.
"The verdict meant our campaign against Thaksin was right all along, which will bring more people to join our campaign now to bring him back home to serve his sentence," PAD leader Suriyasai Katasila told Reuters.
The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Thaksin, who is living in exile in Britain, had violated a conflict-of-interest law while in office and sentenced him to two years in prison.
Minutes after the verdict, Thaksin told Reuters by telephone he had expected the trial to end that way because the whole case was politically motivated.
A series of graft charges were initiated by a panel set up after the military coup that ousted him in 2006.
An elected government returned to power in early 2008. It is already on its second prime minister, Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat.
Somchai was booed and jeered by around 500 state employees during a visit to the telecommunications ministry on Wednesday.
"Somchai, murderer! Somchai, get out!" the demonstrators shouted, blaming him for violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police outside parliament on Oct. 7, when two people were killed and hundreds injured.
Somchai, who took over from Samak Sundaravej last month after Samak, too, was found guilty of a conflict of interest, has come under pressure from the PAD and military chiefs to accept responsibility and quit.
He had to be escorted by 10 police officers to get past the crowd at the ministry and into a car as shoes and bottles were thrown at him, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
Suriyasai said the PAD, a led by band of royalists, business people and academics, would continue their occupation of Government House to press Somchai to work for Thaksin's extradition.
"What we have to do now is to adjust our campaign tactics to avoid violence, otherwise it will give Thaksin an excuse for political asylum in Britain," Suriyasai said. Thaksin denies he is seeking asylum.
The verdict has done nothing to narrow the political divide in Thailand, where Thaksin remains popular among rural voters and the poor, and there is no consensus on what happens next.
"The army chief was calling on Somchai to quit on TV, but what they have struck behind the scenes might have been a house dissolution and a snap election," political commentator Sukhum Nualskul said. "I think that is the best option for all sides."
Analysts said Somchai's People Power Party was likely to win again and lead a new coalition government.
That course of events might give the government breathing space to pursue the drafting of a new constitution to replace the one brought in by the military government, but preventing that was one of the reasons the PAD took to the streets in May.
The political crisis dates back to 2005, when the PAD launched street protests against Thaksin, alleging corruption and abuse of power. It has meandered through a coup to elections and back to protests and shows no sign of resolution.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ekim 2008, 15:27