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Former Thai PM Thaksin Skips Court Appearance, Goes to Britain

  • Aaron Goodman

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has confirmed he will not return to Bangkok to face corruption charges. The Thai courts have issued warrants for the arrest of Mr. Thaksin and his wife. Aaron Goodman in Bangkok reports.

Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday that he is in Britain, and that he will not return to Thailand to meet bail conditions imposed by judges hearing corruption charges.

In a hand-written statement faxed to Thai television stations, the former prime minister said political interference would prevent him from getting a fair trial.

Mr. Thaksin says he and his wife will stay in Britain.

He also says that the corruption charges against them are politically motivated.

Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman, were in Beijing until Sunday for the opening of the Olympics. The court had granted them permission to travel.

Mrs. Pojaman was convicted last month of tax evasion and released on bail. They both were scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday to face other charges.

Mr. Thaksin is involved in three other court cases, and a number of investigations that may lead to charges. He denies any wrongdoing by his family.

Some political analysts think his decision to flee may have been motivated by the prospect of seeing his wife face prison. But it is unclear whether it will end the political acrimony and stalemate that has dogged the government and stock market for the past three years.

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

"It depends on whether Thaksin's opponents, who have ousted him, and who have now put down the Thaksin challenge, are willing to adopt some of his agenda. If they are willing to bridge Thailand's social divide by income redistribution, restructure the economy and civil service, some of the good things that he did, notwithstanding the corruption allegations. If they adopt those measures and try to move Thailand forward into the 21st century, then we could see a reconciliation and some kind of a unity that can allow us to move on. Otherwise the crisis will fester," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak.

Mr. Thaksin, a billionaire businessman, is a controversial figure in Thai politics. He has strong support among working-class and rural voters. However, many in Thailand's upper classes accused of him being corrupt and dictatorial. The military forced him into exile in 2006 after months of massive protests against his government.

Last year, however, his political allies in the People Power Party won national elections. He returned to the country in March.

Since May, however, Bangkok has again seen daily protest rallies, sparked by the People Power Party's moves to amend the constitution.

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