Thaksin’s Legal and Political Woes Mount; Wardle Leaves City

We promised to be back once there were some significant developments in the situation at Manchester City. Well, a lot has transpired in the past couple of weeks well worth noting. Most importantly, Thaksin Shinawatra’s political and legal position in Thailand appears to have deteriorated rapidly in the past ten days. Three of his lawyers have been imprisoned for an audacious attempt to bribe court officials; his former spokesman has been forced to step down from his government post under severe political pressure; Thaksin has been forbidden from leaving the country because of the pending court cases against him; and one of the cases (regarding a land deal) has now gone to trial, with a verdict expected by the end of September.

Some analysts in Bangkok believe that Thaksin is on his last legs; the Nation on Friday published two analyses of the situation, one short and one rather more detailed and dire (from Thaksin’s point of view). Both are worth checking out; but keep in mind it is still unwise to be very confident about how this will ultimately play out. One of the more extreme possibilities is that elements of the military might launch a pro-Thaksin coup, though (as The Nation points out) that seems very unlikely; the possibility has been raised mainly by those trying to imagine how Thaksin might extricate himself from the mounting pressures. What is more certain is that a conviction of any kind against Thaksin will land him a jail sentence and (under application of the Premier League’s rules) require him to give up ownership of Manchester City, though one can’t see that actually happening without a very long drawn out legal battle in the UK.

Related to all this, by way of New Mandala I stumbled upon academic Michael Connor’s very useful blog about Thailand this week; he has a rather withering assessment of Thaksin as prime minister (penned in September 2006) well worth checking out. His assessment of the democratic tendencies of the current opposition in Thailand is equally negative, however.

Meanwhile, back in Manchester the final major link to the old regime at City has given way with the resignation of John Wardle as vice chairman after 11 years with the club. Wardle was for many years one of the club’s largest investors and served as chairman himself for over four years; he is credited by many for being willing to bankroll the club out of his own money and helping lead City from the low moments of life in the Second Division back into Premiership stability. Critics will tell you that a lot of money was wasted along the way on failed transfers, but there is no doubt that Wardle’s departure marks a major symbolic break with the past. Speculation about why Wardle is stepping down now is rife, but the obvious explanation seems to be that after the failure of the old guard to stop Sven’s sacking (which he strongly opposed), Wardle realized he had no real influence left at the club.

The upshot is, for better or worse, whatever happens to City is now firmly in the Thaksin regime’s hands; Wardle told the Manchester Evening News that “hopefully” Thaksin would continue to invest in the club.

As to more ordinary footballing matters, the usual summer comings and goings have commenced with Thaksin favourite Sun Jihai moving to Sheffield United and several other squad players departing; highly-rated striker Jo of Brazil became City’s record signing. City kick off in the UEFA Cup next week in the Faroe Islands.

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