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Thailand's Deposed Prime Minister Ready to Return Home


Thailand's deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, says he would like to return home, now that his political allies have won the first elections held since a military takeover last year ousted him from power. Kate Woodsome has more from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Thaksin Shinawatra says he could return to Thailand as soon as February. He says he wants to go back to prove his innocence in a corruption trial he faces there.

Speaking to reporters in Hong Kong Tuesday, Mr. Thaksin said, if he does return, he plans to stay out of politics.

"I want to go back to live my life peacefully in Thailand as a normal citizen, and also I would like to be sure that when I go back it's safe for me," he said.

Military leaders pushed Mr. Thaksin from power 15 months ago in a bloodless coup while he was out of the country. The coup leaders said they wanted to clean up the government, accusing Mr. Thaksin of abuse of power and rampant corruption.

The new government barred Mr. Thaksin from office, and the courts dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party.

The former prime minister has not returned to Thailand, and says he will only go back when it is safe for him to do so. Sunday's national elections apparently gave him that sense of security.

The People Power Party, which includes many Thaksin supporters, won 233 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament. Although it failed to win a majority, the PPP controls enough seats to form a coalition government.

Mr. Thaksin says, if asked, he would be willing to be a political adviser to the PPP.

Political analysts say it is unclear whether the military will allow a pro-Thaksin party to lead the government.

On Tuesday, Mr. Thaksin struck a conciliatory tone toward the military, calling for national healing and unity.

"I would like to congratulate them for bringing back democracy to Thailand," Thaksin said, "and we would like to thank the junta and military-installed government for their effort to allow the general election to happen. I want to see the reconciliation to be started."

Mr. Thaksin said he is ready to get along with his former political foes, and has even sent them an invitation to play a round of golf.

The military-backed Democrat Party, which came in second with 165 parliamentary seats, has already said it will not join a PPP-led government.