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Wife of Ousted Thai Leader Returns to Face Corruption Charges


The wife of Thailand's ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has returned to the country to face corruption charges after more than a year in exile. Her return to Thailand comes as Mr. Thaksin's supporters are trying to secure his own return following an election victory by his supporters last month. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

Thaksin Shinawatra's wife, Pojamarn Shinawatra, arrived at Bangkok airport aboard a commercial flight from Hong Kong Tuesday. Police presented her with an arrest warrant and escorted her from the airport to Thailand's Supreme Court building.

Her attorney, Noppadol Pattama, told reporters Ms. Pojamarn was later released after posting a bail of $168,000.

The attorney says Ms. Pojamarn will stay in Thailand and act in accordance to the judicial system.

She had earlier returned to the country for legal matters a month after the September 2006 coup that drove her husband from office, but left again shortly thereafter.

Since Mr. Thaksin's ouster, he and his wife have been based in Britain. He has been watching events in Thailand from Hong Kong over the past two weeks.

They both face charges relating to an allegedly corrupt land deal, and accusations that they tried to conceal their assets. The couple denies the charges.

Tuesday's homecoming by Ms. Pojamarn is yet another step in a process that may see Mr. Thaksin himself make a return to the country, and the political scene - something those who ousted him hope to prevent. He has said he plans to return in the coming months once a new government is in place.

His Thai Rak Thai Party was disbanded after the military coup. His supporters regrouped mostly under the People Power Party, which won the largest number of seats in the December 23 general elections. However, they came just short of winning a majority and thus have to form a coalition government.

The party has not been able to come up with a coalition because authorities have put at least 65 PPP winning candidates under investigation for alleged election fraud. PPP officials say the accusations are part of a "dirty tricks" campaign to prevent Mr. Thaksin's supporters, and possibly the ousted leader himself, from regaining control of the government.

Analysts say Pojamarn Shinawatra's presence in Thailand may further galvanize Mr. Thaksin's supporters, who encouraged by their victory in the elections, have stepped up their calls for the ousted leader's return and exoneration.

Mr. Thaksin's largest support base is among rural voters and the urban poor. His opponents are largely the military and the middle and upper classes in the cities, who loathe him for what they say was rampant corruption during his administration and for his alleged disrespect of Thailand's king.

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