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Lawyers for Ousted Thai Leader Will Fight Freeze on His Bank Accounts


Lawyers for ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra say they will fight an order freezing his bank accounts in the country. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, some political analysts says the order could strengthen opposition against the military-led government.

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's lawyers say the government has treated him unfairly and called the freeze on the accounts a political decision.

On Monday, the government's anti-corruption body, known as the assets examination committee, froze 21 bank accounts owned by Mr. Thaksin and his family. They hold about $1.6 billion. The family has 60 days to appeal the decision.

Investigations into his finances began soon after Mr. Thaksin was overthrown in a coup last September. He now lives in London.

In recent weeks there have been increasing protests calling for the military to restore democracy and for Mr. Thaksin, who was elected twice, to be returned to office.

Vikas Kawatra, a senior executive with the stock brokerage firm Kim Eng Securities, says investors are concerned the committee's decision may increase tensions among Mr. Thaksin's supporters.

"You ban a party, the party is already wounded, and then when you come out with this kind of act which hurts the man the most," he said. "I think that they are trying to make sure that Thaksin does not have any resources left to fight back."

The assets were frozen just weeks after a constitutional tribunal found Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party guilty of election law violations and bribery in the April 2006 general elections. The tribunal dissolved the party and banned its executives from politics for five years.

Some government officials and political analysts suspect Mr. Thaksin's fortune has financed the anti-government rallies. But protest organizers deny the allegations.

Mr. Thaksin is extremely popular in rural and lower-income communities. However, his often autocratic ways and allegations of corruption in his government angered many middle class urban voters. For months before the coup, there were weekly mass rallies in Bangkok calling for his resignation.

Former Senator Kraisak Choonhavan was attacked at a recent pro-Thaksin rally. He fears the demonstrations could become violent.

"I think we are in serious situation now," he said. "There are marauding groups of demonstrators who have shown very little respect for other people's rights, have shown extreme aggressivess. Very little on substance. And they will probably create more and more problems."

The interim government has promised to have a new constitution approved within a few months and to hold elections by December.