If Thaksin and his wife have indeed done a runner, as is looking increasingly likely, it may well be a blessing in disguise for Samak’s government.

Opposition forces in Thailand rely heavily on the imagery of a government that does not control its own destiny. The spectre of the all-powerful puppet-master Thaksin adds great symbolic strength to the opposition’s attacks on the government. And it helps to hide the opposition’s own lack of any coherent political strategy.

But when Thaksin and his wife failed to board their Thai airways flight in Beijing, the Thaksin imagery lost some more of its potency. This may hurt Samak’s ruling party, given that PPP has benefited from electoral good-will toward Thaksin. There may also be some awkward moments as the government has to explain why Thaksin and his wife were allowed to leave the country in the first place, given their uncomfortable legal position.

But Thaksin’s no-show in the Supreme Court could be most costly for the PAD and the Democrats. Running a scare campaign is not so easy when the bogeyman flees with his tail between his legs.