News / Asia

Thailand Issues Terrorism Arrest Warrant for Thaksin

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A Thai court has approved a government request for an arrest warrant for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges.  

The court approved the warrant for his arrest on charges of aiding militant anti-government protesters who went on a rampage May 19 as the military began to destroy their camp in central Bangkok.  The government also accuses Mr. Thaksin of funding the protesters, who occupied the camp for two months.

Mr. Thaksin, overthrown in a 2006 coup, remains overseas after fleeing Thailand in 2008 to avoid a prison sentence for corruption.  The new warrant, sparked by Thailand's Justice Ministry's investigation department, is at least the sixth he faces.

A member of the governing Democrat Party and Thailand Trade Representative Office president Kiat Sittheeamorn says the government will seek international help in arresting Mr. Thaksin.

"What next?  The legal procedures are that I think the Attorney General's office will take it from there and inform the Interpol, inform the international community that another arrest warrant is being made based on a different ground, different charges and it's much more serious," said Kiat.

Mr. Thaksin's lawyers accuse the government of perverting justice with a charge that "violates law and any claim of hopes of reconciliation."

Mr. Thaksin has denied responsibility for the violence, which included arson attacks on more than 30 buildings.  At least 88 people died in violent incidents during the protests, more than 50 of them last week as the military began to move against the protesters.  Almost 2,000 people were wounded.

Kiat, speaking to foreign journalists and businessmen, said the government estimates the protests and the violence cost more than $6 billion in lost earnings and damage to property.

While the government is hunting Mr. Thaksin, a party allied with him, the Puea Thai Party, has submitted a no-confidence motion and calls for the impeachment of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and five Cabinet members.  A two-day debate on the motion begins next week.

Mr. Abhisit says he is prepared to implement several steps of a reconciliation plan protest leaders rejected earlier this month.  He has not yet set a new date for fresh elections, although his plan originally called for elections in November.

The protesters, who consider the current government illegitimate, were demanding immediate elections.

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