Lindsay Murdoch, Bangkok
July 7, 2011
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Thailand's Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra meets with her economic team. Photo: Reuters
EXILED billionaire telecoms tycoon and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has accepted that tensions are running too high in Thailand for him to make a victorious return home - for now.
So what will Yingluck Shinawatra, who is soon to be the bitterly divided country's first female prime minister, do with her older brother, a deeply divisive figure in Thai politics?
Thai media have reported that Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai (For Thais) party is planning to appoint him to be worldwide roving government trade envoy, helping to lift Thailand's economic credentials after years of political deadlock and on-and-off street protests.
Noppadon Pattama, a former foreign minister and legal adviser to Thaksin, swiftly denied the reports. ''He can help the country as a Thai citizen. He doesn't need to have any official or unofficial position,'' Mr Noppadon said.
Thaksin, who lives 4800 kilometres from Bangkok in a luxury villa in the desert emirate of Dubai, has signalled he wants to be home for a family wedding in December. But he has also said he would not return if it would stoke further violence. Analysts have warned that Thaksin's return could be the next potential flashpoint for trouble. He is a convicted felon facing a two-year jail term on charges of corruption, which he strongly denies.
Ms Yingluck is understood to have expressed interest in making a trip to Australia as one of her first overseas visits as prime minister. The US-educated former businesswoman is known to be impressed that Australia has a female prime minister and a female governor-general.
One of the most important appointments in a five-party coalition led by Ms Yingluck will be a foreign minister who can end a hostile and potentially dangerous dispute with neighbouring Cambodia over the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple. Sporadic fighting has erupted between Thai and Cambodian forces at the temple over the past year.
A Puea Thai-led government is expected to have better relations with the Cambodian government.
Thaksin was once appointed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to be an adviser to his government.
Ms Yingluck is still negotiating the composition of her cabinet with officials of her party and four minor parties. The new government will have 299 seats in the 500-seat parliament.