Leading figures of the opposition Democrat Party yesterday stood by their story that fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra had tried to persuade the Democrats to join the government - if they stopped fighting the controversial constitutional amendment and reconciliation bills.
Former Democrat secretary general Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday he had been approached several times since January by two 'high society' women and later by a senior figure he respects, who saw him on June 3.
Suthep said he turned down the offer and thanked the senior liaison figures whom he said had good intentions towards the country and sincerely believed that a union between the country's two largest political parties would end the political conflict.
"I told them that the politicians involved should fight their legal cases straightforwardly," Suthep said, adding he had told party seniors about the offer. "I have never talked on the phone with Thaksin."
Suthep refused to name the people involved, saying he did not want them to be misunderstood.
"They have good intentions towards the country. They think if the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties join hands, the country will be fine. In fact, the country's peace does not depend on some political parties or individuals. This is about all the Thais in the entire country."
Suthep first made his claim last Friday during a party rally in Min Buri. Thaksin is believed to be pulling strings in the ruling party.
Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he had learned about Thaksin's offer from Suthep and senior Democrats. He said he later informed key figures about the matter to clear any suspicion of foul play among them.
"I insist that the Democrat Party has no idea of joining a government with the Pheu Thai Party," he said. Abhisit, who is also the opposition leader, confirmed Suthep's story, saying that Suthep had been approached several times. He dismissed suggestions the Democrat claim was aimed at causing a rift between the ruling party and red-shirt supporters. "They try to appear naive. They should know Thaksin well!"
Abhisit, whose government was hit by unrest in 2010, said it appeared Thaksin was trying every means to ensure a comeback, without being jailed for corruption and getting his seized assets returned.
"Some people may want to be Thaksin's lackeys but the Democrat Party does not."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday she had never heard that her brother offered the Democrats Cabinet seats in exchange for them ceasing to campaign against government-sponsored bills. Asked if she thought the claim was true, Yingluck laughed and said: "I don't think it is possible. The two parties have their duties to do. I don't think there was such a talk." She declined to answer more questions on the matter.
Meanwhile, the prime minister's secretary-general, Suranand Vejjajiva, yesterday said Suthep "dreamed up" the claim, adding the government had no need to seek support from the opposition party to boost its stability. "Suthep is highly imaginative," he said.
Pheu Thai MP Kokaew Pikulthong, who is also a red-shirt leader, yesterday called a press conference to dismiss Suthep's claim. He said he had asked some people close to Thaksin and they all denied the approach. However, he admitted that he had not phoned Thaksin directly.
Following the press conference, Kokaew was asked if it would be good for the Democrats and Pheu Thai to work together in the same government. He replied it would be good for national reconciliation and government efficiency, with the Democrats' various expertise and Thaksin's management skills and vision.