BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ruled out a political comeback for her influential self-exiled brother on Saturday and said an unpopular amnesty bill that would have allowed him to return has been scrapped, permanently.
Yingluck said neither Thaksin Shinawatra, the divisive former premier at the center of Thailand’s eight years of on-off political turmoil, nor the billionaire Shinawatra family were power hungry and all wanted the country to be democratic and at peace.
Anti-government protesters have been on the streets for weeks, clashing with police and vowing to oust Yingluck and eradicate Thaksin’s influence in a final push on Monday.
“Right now, I don’t think he wants to continue with politics, he would like to see fairness to everyone to make sure that we can work together and find a long-term solution for Thailand,” Yingluck said of her brother in an interview with foreign reporters.
”My family doesn’t want to hold power for our family. Any option for the majority, for peace, to move Thailand forward as a democracy, we will take it.
“I can tell you right now, we do not want to be any obstruction to peace in this country. We want a solution for everyone.”
The protesters, backed by the establishment which includes royalist generals, are unlikely to buy that. They say Yingluck is Thaksin’s puppet, consolidating power on his behalf with corrupt deals and costly populist policies.
They want to rid Thailand of what they call the “Thaksin regime”, a political juggernaut that has won every election since 2001, with governments led by Yingluck, Thaksin, his brother-in-law, and reincarnated parties with factions controlled by his influential ex-wife and older sister. His cousin became commander of the armed forces under Thaksin.
Yingluck said the root cause of Thailand’s turmoil was not her twice-elected brother, but the 2006 military coup that overthrew him. She would not say which parties or individuals she thought were behind the current bid to overthrow her.
“I don’t comment on person to person, but the conflict started in the coup era and has not been solved until now,” she said.
The latest bout of turmoil was sparked by the government bid last month to introduce the political amnesty that would have expunged Thaksin’s 2008 graft conviction.
The amnesty bill, which critics say was a blatant move to allow the Dubai-based Thaksin to return to Thailand, was gone for good, Yingluck said, even though parliament could re-introduce it within six months.
“We won’t bring the amnesty bill back again,” she said. “If we don’t commit to what we say, then people will not accept us anymore.”
After a few days of quiet, the demonstrators have vowed to renew their campaign but Yingluck said channels for dialogue were open. However, the protesters’ vague demands for the formation of a “people’s council” in place of her government were unfeasible.
“I don’t know how we can meet the request of the protesters because it’s not under the constitution, it’s not under democracy,” she said. “I don’t know how we can move Thailand forward with this. It would not be accepted internationally.”
She said the government had asked military leaders to sit in on recent talks between herself and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban but their role was “just listening”, not mediation, and the dialogue was not a negotiation.
If protesters sought to occupy state buildings, the police would act with restraint, even if that meant allowing them to take over her offices, she said.
“We will do the best to protect Government House in a peaceful manner. Having said that, we will not swap the protection of Government House with the loss of blood,” Yingluck said, adding that anyone who broke the law could face consequences.
She appealed to the public to sympathize with her government and understand that the protesters’ demands were unconstitutional and could not be met.
“We ask that what they call for falls in line with the constitution, otherwise there is no way out for the country. What they are asking for I cannot execute,” Yingluck said.
“We see the protesters demands and the divisions in Thailand and it hurts us, I believe it is hurting everyone who is watching these events.”
Editing by Robert Birsel