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Thailand Court Agrees to Hear Case Against Thaksin in New Blow to Governing Coalition

The Supreme Court of Thailand has agreed to hear a new corruption case against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a move seen as another blow by opponents against the embattled government that is stacked with Mr. Thaksin's allies. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

The case against Thaksin Shinawatra alleges that he used his influence as Prime Minister to arrange low-interest loans to Burma so that the military government of that country could spend the money on a telecoms business then owned by Thaksin's family.

The former Prime Minister has other legal cases pending against him and his wife on allegations of corruption - the same issue that drove his opponents in the army, the bureaucracy, and the urban upper classes to push for his ouster in 2006. Thaksin returned to Thailand this year after his political ally Samak Sundaravej was elected Prime Minister. Samak formed a six-party coalition government dominated by Thaksin supporters.

The last several weeks have seen a return of Thaksin's opponents to the streets in rallies against the Samak government.

Political analysts say the Supreme Court's decision to hear the corruption case against Mr. Thaksin bolsters Thaksin's opponents' efforts to discredit him and the Samak administration.

Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak is an expert on Thai politics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

"Samak is seen as Thaksin's proxy," he explained. "I think a lot of people in Bangkok - and around the country but mostly in Bangkok - hate Thaksin for his corruption, for his collusion. But deeper than that, I think the Thaksin agenda threatened the vested interests of the establishment of the Bangkok middle class. That's why they wanted to overthrow him then, and that's why they want to overthrow Samak now."

In a bid to stave off pressure from his opponents, Prime Minister Samak plans to reshuffle his cabinet in the coming days.