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Thai Court Orders Thaksin to Show Up for Corruption Trial

A panel of Thai Supreme Court judges has agreed to hear the first corruption case against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra next month. From Bangkok, Roger Wilkison reports the court ordered Mr. Thaksin and his wife to appear at the trial, which is scheduled to begin on August 14.

The charges against Mr. Thaksin relate to his wife's purchase of a prime piece of Bangkok real estate in 2003.

Prosecutors accuse the former Thai prime minister of illegally influencing the deal to allow his wife to buy the land from a government agency at a bargain.

It is the first time that Thai authorities have brought formal corruption charges against Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted last September in a military coup. The coup leaders justified their action by accusing Mr. Thaksin of widespread corruption.

The billionaire entrepreneur and his wife deny the charges. But they are not expected to obey the court's order that they show up for the trial on August 14.

Mr. Thaksin has said he will not return to Thailand until democracy is restored. He says he cannot get a fair trial under a military-appointed government.

At a news conference in Hong Kong on Saturday, Mr. Thaksin indicated that he has no plans to return to Thailand anytime soon.

"When the timing is right, I definitely will go back … I want to go back," he said. "I want to stay in my country, but the timing is very important … the timing is purely politics."

In recent months, Mr. Thaksin's successors have stepped up their campaign against him. A military-appointed tribunal found his party guilty of electoral fraud and banned him and more than 100 other party executives from politics for five years. The authorities have also frozen more than $1.5 billion of his assets.

Still, Mr. Thaksin refuses to disappear from the public eye. His recent purchase of an English Premier League football club, Manchester City, and his pledge to strengthen its squad of players, are almost guaranteed to keep his profile high among his fellow Thais, many of whom are obsessed with English football.