BANGKOK, Jan 22 – Newly-appointed Minister to the PM’s Office Nalinee Taveesin insisted on Sunday that she will not step down, but asked the public to give her the opportunity to prove herself following US government accusations that she had business links with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
Nalinee told a news conference that she was introduced to the Zimbabwean president and his wife in 2002. Mugabe’s family visited Thailand on several occasions where she welcomed them and facilitated all their visits as a host, enjoying a cordial social relationship with one another.
A year later, she learned that the US government imposed sanctions on Mr Mugabe and his family members, as well as those who aided them. The US government cited human rights abuses and political violence against opposition demonstrators as reasons behind the sanctions.
The US Treasury Department in November 2008 named her as a businesswoman who facilitated a number of financial, real estate, and gem-related transactions on behalf of Mugabe’s wife Grace. The action culminated in the freezing of her US-based assets and a ban from financial or commercial transactions with US citizens.
In an attempt to clear her name, Nalinee said on Feb 15, 2009 she designated a US legal attorney to file an inquiry to seek clarification from the US government, as well as evidence to back up its claim, but her request remains thus far unanswered.
Following a royal endorsement on the recent cabinet reshuffle, Nalinee said a group of people disseminated distorted information through social media networks which led to a misunderstanding that she was on a US blacklist and banned from US entry for suspected involvement in serious crimes.
The former Thai trade representative said she did not want the issue to become politicised.
“May I be the final political victim who fell prey to such grave accusations which has caused gross misunderstanding,” Nalinee said.
She also implored for a chance to use her expertise and extensive relationships with foreign leaders to work on behalf of the national interest.
Nalinee and other cabinet members are scheduled to take an oath of allegiance before His Majesty the King on Monday before beginning their new responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, opposition Democrat Party spokesperson, claimed that the appointment of Nalinee was believed to be involved with mining industry interests in Africa linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.