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Thailand May Seek Extradition of Thaksin If He Enters US

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra talks to members of the press in Podgorica, Montenegro (File Photo)

Thailand has indicated it will seek the extradition of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra if he enters the United States. An independent agency has invited the exiled leader to testify in Washington about recent political violence in Thailand. But, Thai authorities have been seeking his return to face terrorism charges related to that violence and to serve a prison sentence for a corruption conviction.

U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, invited former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to testify at hearings next week in Washington.

The independent agency, made up of U.S. politicians and officials, wants Thaksin to report on Thailand's recent political turmoil.

But if he appears in Washington, he could face arrest.

The Thai government wants Thaksin to return home to serve a two-year prison sentence for corruption. They also want him to face trial on terrorism charges.

The government has been hunting Thaksin since he fled the country two years ago. The former leader, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, says he is innocent and being targeted for political reasons.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says if Thai authorities know where he is they will try to take him into custody.

"Once persons who are convicted or who are wanted by the court of law is located in any country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will get involved in terms of making sure that that person is processed according to the law," he said.

Earlier this year clashes between the military and anti-government protesters, many of them Thaksin's supporters, left 90 people dead, most of them protesters.

Thai authorities blame Thaksin for the violence, accusing him of terrorism.

Thaksin blames the government and military.

It is not clear the U.S. will allow Thaksin to visit, but Washington has an extradition treaty with Thailand that Panitan says should be honored.

"We cooperate with our friends to honor our agreements and we hope our friends and our allies to do the same," he said.

Thailand recently complied with Washington's extradition request for alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Bout is accused of being one of the world's biggest suppliers of weapons used to fuel violence across Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

The Russian citizen was arrested in 2008 in a Bangkok undercover operation.

In November Bout was extradited to the U.S. to face charges of conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terrorists. The Russian government strongly protested the extradition, saying Bout is an innocent businessman.