It is his first direct meeting with the Thai press since he was toppled by a military coup on Sept 19 last year.
How do you see your political future?
As I have repeatedly said, I have quit politics. I spent years devoting myself to the nation and the public and being loyal to the monarchy. So now I’d better do something non-political. I can still perform my duties as a Thai citizen. They may include contributing to the royal institution, education and sports. I insist that I will not get involved in politics. Of course, Thai Rak Thai people may pay me visits and seek advice. I will share my thoughts and give advice. Now I have no other status, roles or positions.
What advice have you given to Thai Rak Thai members?
Sharing the same ideology, they must continue their fight because many of our compatriots still need help and care. Today we are forced to step back, but we must be patient and keep on fighting.
How do you look at your supporters?
Firstly, you must understand that I worked hard and my work is substantial. Many people survive thanks to projects such as the 30-baht medical care scheme. Some people are free from debt due to the moratorium policy. Some can stand on their own feet now because of the people’s bank scheme. These policies are tangible. People’s love, concerns and thoughts still exist. Can they be ordered to disappear? That would not happen quickly. People miss me, are concerned about me and appreciate what I did and what their families received. These feelings exist at this moment, and have not been forgotten.
Are you worried about the future of Thai Rak Thai?
I don’t think I want a conflict today. It’s because they [the coup-makers] are not happy with me, although the majority are.
What people deserve is the chance to express themselves. That is an election. Vote for the one you like and do not vote for the one you don’t like. That’s it. The winners must do their best. If they fail, they will not be re-elected. This is the international rule. If we neither accept international rules nor recognise people’s power, and claim poor people are stupid and can be bought, we can never develop as a nation. And don’t forget that if you deal with the poor, you’ll know they have a high awareness of politics. If the government has no policy for them, they will have nothing. They pay more attention to politics than the rich. But they view them as having neither political awareness nor knowledge. Today things have changed. The thinking has changed. Otherwise, the military would not need a budget to deploy people to put pressure on voters. The military know the people can think, so they must make threats. This is their way.
Did the coup make you decide to quit politics?
It has nothing to do with this. It’s because I want to prevent conflicts of opinion in society, and I have already done a lot in politics. My wife told me that if I returned to politics, we might have to get divorced.
How about criticism that you are financing protests?
Today the government has mechanisms to trace money. It knows how money in people’s accounts is moving. My money has not moved at all. The part that moved is for investment. Who will keep only cash? Some was spent on shares and others on land and some on businesses. It’s clear that the money is there.
How will the charter affect politics?
There will be problems of democratisation. Birds always deliver birds, not baby chickens. So it’s difficult for a charter which has its origins in a coup to be democratic. It must be drawn up by democrats so that it can be democratic.
What do you think about Thai Rak Thai members running new political parties?
That’s normal. People come and go whenever there is an election. But this time is special because the party’s dissolution was plotted in advance. Afterwards money was frozen to force MPs to leave. I don’t think the military understands politics. They think victory can be bought. Today people have changed. They know politics. So I’d like every party to let people have the freedom to vote and then they will be happy. People will not be happy unless they can make their own decisions.Are you worried about being prosecuted for the Ratchadaphisek land deal?My family acquired it to build a house. We already paid the architect. We wouldn’t do business there and we bought it correctly. If we wanted to cheat, why it was under my wife’s name? It was under her name because we wanted to do it transparently.The Assets Scrutiny Committee urges the central bank to check the money you have spent buying Manchester City football club.I earned my money. I declared it before entering politics. Isn’t that right by all morals, ethics and laws? It can be concluded that from now on anyone who wants to enter politics must have nothing. If you have any money, it will be frozen. I earned it over 20 years. Isn’t that right? Please think about it.Are you confident you can defend yourself against the charges?If they are handled straightforwardly, we will not be found guilty. But they are all premeditated.
Will you come back to fight in your own defence?
If I return now, I will not receive justice. Some judges were replaced. Anyone who has honest judgement is removed. This damages the whole system.
Have you talked to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and the CNS chairman?
We can’t understand each other. They want to axe me. Talks didn’t work. I did phone the prime minister a few times.
Do you have fears for your safety if you were to return?There are always reports… once it was reported that someone would be sent to England [to get me].
What do you think about Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin signalling he may enter politics?Fine. Do it. He will be examined as well.