Bangkok: Supporters of populist former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra denounced a court order to seize USD 1.4 billion of his assets, and vowed on Saturday to pursue a non-violent struggle for what they said would be a people`s democracy.
But analysts and editorials widely speculated that the Supreme Court`s decision not to seize all 76 billion baht (USD 2.3 billion) of Thaksin`s vast fortune will at least temporarily ease political conflicts that have plagued the country for the past four years.
"I am putting a curse on myself. If I cheated, let me die within seven days. If I didn`t cheat, let Thai people have democracy in March. Amen!" Thaksin, meanwhile, said on Saturday in an SMS message to his followers from Dubai, his current residence in exile.
The court ruled on Friday that Thaksin abused his power to enrich himself and his family while in office and ordered that USD 1.4 billion of his telecommunications fortune be seized.
Thaksin was deposed by a September 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. The action was meant to quell tensions sparked by months of anti-Thaksin protests, but instead polarised the country.
"What Thai people feel at the moment is that justice in this society is fading away," said Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, chairman of the pro-Thaksin Pheua Thai party. Referring to the advent of constitutional monarchy in 1932, he said that Thailand has been waiting for 78 years "for power to really belong to the people”.
Chavalit called on every sector of society to engage in non-violent protest. Despite warnings by the government that violence might erupt, no incidents were reported on Judgment Day, as Friday was dubbed.
Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a law professor at Bangkok`s Thammasat University, contended that the verdict was fair.
"I think the situation has loosened up from before, when there was speculation that all of Thaksin`s assets might be seized," he said. "People who are neutral could find it acceptable."
The English-language Bangkok Post said in its Saturday editorial that "now that issue of Thaksin`s billions has been legally settled, it is time to give the wounds a chance to heal. The alternative would be intolerable."
Thaksin and his supporters maintain he was overthrown because he challenged the country`s entrenched elite while helping the poor masses whose backing was key to his two landslide election victories. Critics say during his 2001-2006 rule, Thaksin subverted democratic institutions, enriched himself and disrespected Thailand`s revered king.