Professor Theerapat Serirangsan's Prediction Comes True
( Last edit 2009-05-08 )
Professor Theerapat Sereerangsan, one of the founders of the Thai Rak Thai party, gave an interview to Thai Post on July 10, 2006
Thai Rak Thai government is going to crumble. CLICK FOR THAI ARTICLE
Believe It Or Not? Seven years ago, on July 10, 1999 it was him, one of the twenty three co-founders of Thai Rak Thai party who was the first "oustsider" whom Thaksin Shinawatra had invited to consult about the party's establisment two years before. He was also the drafter of Thai Rak Thai party's regulations which was applied to date.
He was also the first co-founders who said goodbye well before the first general election because he could not tolerate the "sucking in" to the party of old-fashion politicians, particularly led by Sanoh Thienthong.
"First of all, (Professor) Somkid (Jatusripitak) phoned me, inviting me to talk at the Shinawatra building, Paholyothin. After a while, Thaksin came and was intoduced since I had not formally known him. Later, there were occasional talks about Thaksin's wish to establish a new political party and would like me to help.", Prof.Theerapat said.
"In fact, I had not known Somkid either. Perhaps I had informally chatted with him during Plang Tham party's presence.", Prof.Theerapat said.
"I used to help advising political knowledges to various political parties. Whoever asked, I would help. No matter Democrat, Plang Tham, and Mrs.Sudarat, I would help as an academic scholar and not politically such as advising on some matters. When Thaksin became the head of the (Plang Tham) party, I also helped advising several matters including ten items on political reform and the election of senators which I proposed a direct election. These have been well documented."
"I suppose this could be how Thaksin got to know me. When (Prof.) Somkid called, we had a talk about a new party which I agreed because the old parties were of old-fashioned and had no political reform policies. Thaksin was also very successful in business. The image was clear that he was unlikely to earn illegal benefits in politics or undue businesses. With such assumptions, I thought it was lucky for the country to have a serious political reform."
"I had been mostly involved in political reform in terms of theories since the time of PM Banharn's government. I was a committee member in political reform, proposing various ideas up to the amendment of article 211 of the constitution which I was a vice president. There was an election for the constitution drafting assembly (So So Ro). I missed it because in the political science expert group, they required eight people. I was at the eleventh. Thaksin ran for this election in Chiang Mai but also missed it. Simply saying, we both were free and it was time to get into practice after we had been working with theories for a proper length of time."
"It was in 1996, during the assembly was drafting the constitution, we were thinking of establishing a political party to fit in with the new political reform. At that time, the image of Thaksin was not bad. He appeared most successful among the business people in general making an anticipation that he would not earn any more benefits. Such thoughts came together, therefore, I support the ideas of a new political party. This is the start of Thai Rak Thai party."
"I was the first 'Outsider' in the discussion group. One has to understand first that (Prof.) Somkid was an employee of Thaksin. He was paid by Thaksin as his consultant for years. Poomtham (Vejjayachai) was also Thaksin's employee, including doctor Prommin (Lerdsuriyadej). So it can be said that I was the first outsider who was invited to establish the party and was really practising."
"In the beginning, I said to Thaksin that I had seen several Prime Ministers in the course of rather intensive historical study of Thai politics. I saw accumulated problems. The Prime Ministers, whoever they were, good or bad, lacked the knowledges to solve the country's problems because they had not prepared before taking the job. When in the seat, they had to face problems like boxers after climbing into the ring, they would face the rivals and have to box straight away. They did not stand the chance to think what to do."
"Therefore, some good Prime Ministers, I mean the clean ones, were severely wrecked because they failed in carrying out the duty. Not to mention the Prime Ministers who were crooks, only several good Prime Ministers including Senee Pramoj, Kukrit Pramoj, Sanya Thammasak, General Prem Tinnasulanon who were all good but when faced with problems of those scales, they were unable to tackle the problems. They all were wrecked. I did not want to see Thaksin ruined because when he was willing to work in politics, I wanted him to be a stateman. I did not want him to be booed off stage. That was what I told him."
"First was to be prepared with the knowledge base to solve the country's problems. Thaksin asked how. I told him that there were a lot of smart experts in Thailand and that we should set up a body which was not involved with political parties, being an independent organization, or a private organization such as a foundation. Then, we should gather all the knowledgable experts and well-accepted scholars in various branches to build up knowledges which would be reflected in the policies of the up-coming political party. If the party would win the election, then, the policies would be applied straight away because they had been filtered once by knowledgable experts and therefore, would likely to be well acceptable. This could be the way out to solve the country's problems. The body was to be independent from political parties. The relationship would be just provision of the knowledges for utilization but not to be under political parties' influences. They have to be free. Whoever wanted to get into politics, could do later whereas whoelse just wanted to help the country (without getting involved in politics) could stay there."
"Thaksin got the idea and agreed to support to set up as a foundation. He said he would donate cash of 20 million (baht). I said just the interest of the amount would be enough. He said it was O.K. 20 million (baht) would do. He asked who the president should be. Four were present at that moment, me, Thaksin, Somkid, and Poomtham. I said it had to be the well-accepted person to the society. I would like to invite Mr.Anand Panyarachun to be the president while the committee members of the foundation may be all kinds of Professors in various academic branches e.g., Professor Dr.Sippanon Ketutat and Professor Dr.Wijit Srisa-an for education, Professor Dr.Prawes Wasri for public health, Professor Dr.Chai-a-nan Samutwanich for bureaucratic development, Professor Dr.Yongyud Yuthawong for technology. Those selected were all good people we agreed to proceed. That was to start off with a Body of Knowledges to prioritize the knowledges to solve the country's problems."
"I have a funny story. After the meeting on that day, in front of a lift on the 30th floor of the Shinawatra building, (Prof.) Somkid talked to Poomtham that since the concept proposed by me was O.K. by Thaksin, they should proceed urgently before Thaksin changed his mind."
"I was surprised, how come Thaksin changes his mind so fast or so often. I was somewhat worrying but up to now I am no longer worrying (laugh) you know why."
"Certainly, the concept did not become real. I knew afterward that he did approach ex-PM Anand who was a member of the constitution drafting assembly at that time. He turned down the invitation. I said maybe someone else from a list which I proposed. However, I believed Thaksin changed his mind."
"Later, Thaksin changed his mind very often about what he agreed on the establishment of a new party. All of a sudden, he took a position of a deputy Prime Minister in General Chawalit's government. I was not happy with the action because it indicated that he was rather a waverer without a solid stance. Having agreed to form a new party and then suddenly, he took up a deputy Prime Minister seat (in another existing party instead). I see this action improper. He said it was the heat of the moment. I remember he said he was playing golf when Gen.Chawalit phoned and asked him to make the decision right away because the names of the cabinet were to be submitted to the King on that day. He then had to go along with it. Another incidence was about taking over the Chartpatana party from Gen.Chartchai, in which later eventually, he said no. It seemed that the Chartpatana party was too complicated and Mr.Korn Tapparangsri was in the way. Thaksin used the word, "Korn obstructed me." That was why Thaksin went back to the point of building a new party."
"This was the begining. He had already been swaying. Later, when he left the Deputy Prime Minister seat, there was the floating of Thai baht. Then he invited me again. That day, I thought I would have to discuss in detail actually what he wanted. Particularly, there was a rumour that he had known about the floating of Thai baht (before it was officially declared to the public). I asked him straight that actually what it was. It was already a talk of the town that he was an insider. Just with the question, his face obviously turned red. Then he turned cooling down. Slowly he talked, usually he never showed any emotions with me. Perhaps, he knew that I am a fairly straight forward person. When asked, he explained, shortly as a conclusion that it was just a technical estimation of the situations that as a businessman, he had calculated and forecasted such actions (of baht devaluation). The insider information was not necessary for him. I was not an expert in economy and forex. Therefore, I had to accept it to honour what he said."
"At last, a new party was on the way. The co-founders were me and (Professor) Somkid (Jatusripitak). I was drafting the party's policies, the regulations, the ideologies and the goals. Somkid was good at marketing. There was Thaksin's team, i.e., Dr.Prommin and some 2-3 AIS (Advance Info Service)'s lawyers, coming to help me drafting until finished. Then, there was a meeting and more people came in such as Jaturon Chai-Saeng, Sutham Saengpratoom, Sudarat, and Purachai to discuss education polices."
"Eventually, it came to the naming of the party. There was a meeting in which Thaksin behaved as if he were a democrat and welcomed an open discussion. That day, Potjaman was in the meeting. She proposed the name "Thai Rak Thai" for a vote which was a secret ballot. It turned out that the name "Thai Rak Thai" won."
"Still, Thaksin showed off being a democrat by offering the public to take part in the naming of the party by putting up 4-5 tentative names for public hearings. This was why there were advertisements in the newspaper calling for people to vote. I thought, it was just a formality mock-up. Finally, it must be "Thai Rak Thai". This was how the name "Thai Rak Thai" came up."
"There we got the name. The policies were done. Then it came the founders which the law said at least 15 were needed. Then, more people joined. Gen.Thammarak was invited by Prof.Kanit Na Nakorn. At last. there was a meeting to decide which date was to register the party. Thaksin said July 14. I did not argue but said July 14 was French national day, French revolution day which meant the date of the uprise of people to overthrow Louise the sixteenth and abolition of Absolute Monarchy. It should be considered carefully that people may be tempted to look at us that way. Thaksin said with this information, he had to reconsider. About a week later, he came back and said, it was OK and reaffirmed that the date was alright.
"Was it a fortune teller? Thaksin did not say it was a fortune teller who had given this date to him but he thought the date was alright. It would be up to you to think."
"So, it was July 14, 1998 the date of party registraton. Before the registration, the founders held a meeting in which the resolution was Thaksin to be the party chief and Prof.Kanit was a deputy chief. The secretariat was not available but Thaksin proposed Purachai to accept the position for that time being. Then came the registration with the ECC and a press conference at Siam City hotel."
Though he was one of the 23 (official) founders, Prof.Theerapat said he never was a party member and never had a position in the party.
"Because I held an academic position, I did not resign. Therefore, I was an ordinary founder. I could not be administrative board of the party. If I was to be, I had to resign from the bureaucatic post. Actually, my position in the Thai Rak Thai party from the beginning to the end was a founder, both de jure and de facto."
"I did not have other position even the party member. I never apply. After the party had been registered, the law stipulated that a formal membership registration was needed. One must fill a form and sign. I did not apply but Thaksin put all the founders' names into the membership list. It was wrong and affected me when later I applied for an ECC candidacy. The selection committee checked with ECC to see if any candidates were holding any positions in any political party. ECC checked with political parties and Thai Rak Thai party said I was her party member. I told them that I was never any party's member. Therefore, if you cancel me from the candidacy list because of me unqualifying, I would sue you. They did not cancel me from the list but they did not choose me."
They did not choose me but they did not cancel me from the list since Thai Rak Thai party did not have my membership application form. They did it by themselves. Several other parties also did the same. ECC was also terrible. In fact, party membership is an important matter. When a party accept anybody to be a member, a copy of the application form must be sent to ECC, for a verification. ECC was not aware of anything. Even now, I think they are getting nowhere. Some parties have same people overlapping. Some people were unaware of how they became members of political parties. I was never a member of Thai Rak Thai party and would not either. I was not ready to apply for a membership but I was a founder. If I were ready, then, that would be another issue."
"After the party was established, the first year was alright. There were three principles which I proposed to Thaksin, the first being "The body of knowledge" for building up knowledges as I had described."
"The second principle which I skipped was as follows. At the establishment of the party, I told Thaksin that I wished to see a good party, a party which would belong to people. If Thaksin wanted to be the government, be it. But Thaksin must not make this party belong to him. It must belong to the people as a "mass party". Therefore, the party must very well filter for only good people. It must not let bad people in. This was the second principle. You would have seen that after the party was already set up, there was a specific committee, presided by Prof.Kanit, set up to select candidates for the general election. The members of the committee comprised of Purachai, Prof.Somkid and me. After the recruiters had lists of candidates, this committee would filter out again. We had the authority to select and deselect the candidates before submitting to the party administrative committee. This was supposed to be an important mechanism to select good people. Most importantly, we did not need to select politicians, particularly with flaws, dishonest or corrupt. We would not let one of those in. That was what we talked about and the second principle it was."
"The third principle which I made it very clear to Thaksin was that because he had been a businessman, on entering into politics, he had to definitely and totally separate (his) business from politics. He could not mix them up. Therefore, I proposed to him to set up a trust or a private fund to look after his assets in all of his companies from the moment he started as a chief of Thai Rak Thai party to whether or not he would be a PM. He must not get involved in any assets. He must let the trust look after them."
"The 1997 constitution (which prohibited conflicts of interests of politicians) had not been passed yet. If the third principle had been done and announced to the public before the constitution, the party would have been a leader in transparency, separating politics from business. Even at the Shinawatra buildings, Thaksin must not have an office. He must not enter the 30th floor when he became the chief of the party. He must have the office at the party only. That was what we agreed upon. He must behave for the media and the society to accept as a role model because it would be an important point to make him a statesman, not an ordinary politician. Thaksin said my ideas were brilliant and invited an expert to manage this matter. It was Dr.Suwan Walai-Sathien. I presented this concept about precautions of conflicts of interrests and Thaksin well accepted them. As of the party's office, he suggested it to be at his safe house which was in another small road besides the Shinawatra buildings, instead of meeting at the Shinawatra buildings. That was good signs for good intentions and I believed that he had intention to do the agreed principles."
"I believed we would possibly have a good leader, a good political party which would in the future be a good fortune of the country. Therefore, within the first year of the Thai Rak Thai party we were within these principles which I was comfortable because we could choose good and new candidates. You would see that, at first, we had only new people, but now I feel that they all have been spoiled by the party's organization culture."
"We had a lot of seminars in the first year. Thaksin used to say that in the first general election of the Thai Rak Thai party, he had not expected a large number of MPs. Thaksin said he wanted only 50-60 MPs, but I proposed that such a newly born party would not make any impact. It should be about 100 MPs. The new constitution (1997 then) specified a total of 500 MPs. 100 MPs would be a good start but it did not mean that we had to recruit old-style politicians into the party. That was the talk about the number of the MPs. Afterwards, each one did what was supposed to be done. As for candidate recruitment, initially, each country's region was looked after by each member (of the administrative committee). Sudarat and Pongthep looked after the central region. Gen.Thammarak looked after the northeast. Sutham looked after the south. Thaksin and Chanon Suwalin looked after the north. For the party's policies, at first, we had a committee on party's policies which Thaksin assigned Jaturon to preside. I, Somkid, Pansak, Purachai and Sirikorn were in the committee. How come Jaturon left, I did not know."
A rumour was that Jaturon joined Thai Rak Thai party from the beginning while his name was still with Kwam Wang Mai party (New Hope party). Then, he went back to be the secretariat of the Kwam Wang Mai party and then back again (to Thai Rak Thai party). As for the party policies, Professor Theerapat said he was the drafter for politics and administration.
"To be bold, I think my policies which I drafted was the most perfect, much more than other policies either economics or education. That was why I always said the drafting of the policies must come through the basis of knowledges, not through simple imagination such as the 30-baht health care. When it was presented in the party, I was pressing with my question that I wished to see any researchs which supported the policies. None. Comparatively, it was like a marketing plan, a single piece of paper. I felt that it was groundless, and without causes and effects. If it were to affect positively or negatively, how would we rectify it. None. If it was to be a policy for a political campaign, I would not agree. It would create problems in the long run."
"Several policies of Thai Rak Thai party were not well studied. They proved my first principle which I proposed at the beginning. The "Body of Knowledges" was not born. Thaksin did not let it happen. Without it, they would get only erratic policies without essences to actually fix the countries' problems. To this date, you can tell whether or not what I said became true. Look at the absolute failures of policies of Thaksin in the first and second term. Once, in a seminar at Thammasat, I said, let's talk about any masterpiece work of Thaksin's government (if there has been one). I may say both Thaksin's terms have not laid down a single good foundation to Thai society. There have been only foundations for wrongdoings whereas the policies on politics which I studied and proposed (which Thaksin and the party had agreed upon) have not been brought into practice to the least. There has been no political reform whatsoever. The reform of the bureaucrats fails completely because it has not followed the designed path. The political reform policies, clearly written, are supposed to prevent conflicts of interests, as you can see in the founding policy documents of Thai Rak Thai party. I proposed laws to prevent conflicts of interests and centered at corruptions. The two governments of Thaksin are the most corrupt and earn a lot of conflicts of interests, the most. How come the reform of the bureaucrats fails completely? The decentralization becomes opposite. The processes as suggested in my policies, stresses on human rights but there have been lots of killing."
What about the political reform policies?
"I had looked at the central, regional and local administration. As for the central administration, I stressed on saving, efficiency and maximal benefits" I did not stress on setting up new ministry. The number of ministries was to be reduced. There was supposed to be an organization to manage efficiency. Any jobs which can be contracted out to private business, must go. What should be state enterprises, be it. Ministries would get smaller and fewer. Instead, they have grown from 16 to 20 and the solution is clear that they have failed and will fail further because they cannot solve it. I do not want to say what the Democrat party metaphorically compared. It is like a monkey trying to undo an entangled net would end up with the net more entangled around the monkey."
"At a certain time, there was a rumour that Thaksin shifted his ideas to recruit old-style politicians from other parties. I began to think that whatever were agreed during the talks from the start of the party to the point of recruiting old-style politicians, Thaksin had totally lied. Thaksin still refused the rumours this and that. Eventually, it turned out to be factual. Therefore, I thought I would not be able to help Thaksin in the party any longer. I was then a consultant to the party chief. Fortunately, I was elected to be a dean. Then, I wrote a resignation letter claiming that I had to take the position as a dean and would not be able to work in the party. However, I told him that if any occasional consultations was needed, I would be pleased. That was because, at the time, I did not have bias or negative feelings toward Thaksin. I just felt that it was gradually clearer to me that it was not as my initially laid down ideologies. Then I submitted the resignation. Thaksin invited me to talk face to face in the party's office opposite Suan Jitrladda palace. He asked me why I resigned. I told him, if he wanted to know the truth, I would. As told you before about the three principles, I said what had been agreed at the beginning about a foundation which would be set up to invite experts to brainstorm for the exits of the countries, had not occured. Second which was the intention for the party to belong to the people, without old-style corrupt politicians, became otherwise. Third which was the separation of business from politics, also Thaksin did not do it."
"All three requests, I asked him, for whom I requested. Thaksin listened and replied in a way that Thai society were a mixture with various portions. What were determined might not be achievable. Whether or not it was his well wish, he proposed to me to leave the bureaucratic work to work for him. How much debt I had would be cleared by him. The second choice offered to me was that I should stay in the bureaucratic work until the general election which would probably be in the next 7-8 months, then I should resign from the bureaucratic work to apply for a party list candidacy. He would put me in the very top of the list. (to increase the chance of being elected) The third choice was that if I did not wish to go for an election after the election if Thaksin became the Prime Minister, whatever position I wanted, just tell him."
"Those were three offers. A month later, on July 26, 2000, I went to say happy birthday at Shinawatra buildings. He thanked me of my thought of him and reminded me of the offers to me. He also reminded me to reconsider the offers. Throughout my life, I never asked him for anything, and would never ask."
"The build up of the Thai Rak Thai party, eventually, may be successful to be a government. Thaksin may be the Prime Minister but, as I have predicted, it would be a success at the lost of the society. Thaksin would not be different from leaders in the past.
History would inscribe him as just another condemned. Now, I think all of what I had said is not wrong. Thaksin's last political scenes would be a devastation. Thaksin collapses alone, I would be OK with that but if he does take the country down with him, I cannot allow that."
"I have fought in politics all along as a scholar, no matter any governments since Gen.Prem who I respect him. However, I was one of the leaders who petitioned to the King, as a group called Petition 99 group, requesting Gen.Prem to be politically impartial, when he was an interim government. It might have been a factor which help Gen.Prem to decide to later turn down the PM post. Then came Gen.Chawalit which approached an economic catastrophe, I proposed a way out by forming a major coalition government by Gen.Prem being a middle man to join Kwam Wang Mai party, Chart Patana party, Democrat party, and Chartthai party together. It was not successful because big parties did not agree."
"The first and second Democrat governments were rivalling with me in several matters. I criticized the Financial System Reform Committee (appointed to solve 1997 financial and economic crisis in Thailand). Therefore, my roles and stance have been fairly obvious. I criticize all governments. In Thaksin Shinawatra government, I also criticize, without exception on the basis of me being a Thai Rak Thai's founder. And I criticize not because I had conflicts within the party. People might get me wrong. No, not that way. Whichever government commits wrongdoings, I criticize. There is nothing behind me like the plot of Sanoh Thienthong condemning at the government."
"I criticize Thaksin's governments, if they do anything wrong, I would have to do it. Nobody can shut me up. I have criticized from the first term and since the indictment because of his hidden shares (Thaksin had hidden lots of assets with proxies, his servants and drivers which were against the 1997 Constitution and the laws of the National Counter Corruption Committee.) I could not accept Thaksin for this action. You can check it out even before they formed the government, I had criticized him already. I never agreed with hiding the assets. What the constitution court judged was definitely against the constitution."
How Thaksin Survived His First Constitutional Indictment
"Just some days before the judgement, Professor Kramol Thongthammachart (a member of the 1997 constitutional court judges considering Thakin's case in 2001) sat with me right at this table. Prof.Kramol used to be a consultant to the Dean. He was my respectful mentor who taught me since undergraduate to doctoral level. He was sitting here considering a unit. I asked him how far was the indictment going. Prof.Kramol said, "Urr, I have not read it yet. There are so many documents." When he said that, I began to know where he was heading for. After he finished considering the unit, he was leaving when I escorted him to the door. I said, "Sir, between the principles and personal connection, I hope you would choose principles rather than persons, Sir."
"You may check it out with Prof.Kramol of whether or not it was actually what I told you. Since the verdict (of the constitutional court) was reached, I have lost my (good) feelings to Prof.Kramol. Prof.Kramol also has lost a lot. Do not ask me to say anything stronger than this. He was my mentor. From that day onward, I have rarely encountered with him until now."
CLICK to see the unprejudiced individual verdict of Judge Prasert Nasakul, the President of the Constitutional Court