Abuse-of-power trial against former Thai premier starts

April 29th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by admin  

Bangkok, April 29 (DPA) Thailand’s supreme court Tuesday officially kicked off an abuse-of-power trial against former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Potjaman for the purchase of a plot of land at a government auction five years ago. Thaksin, who was ousted by a military coup in September 2006 on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democracy and the monarchy, did not appear in court but was represented by his wife.

Potjaman told the Supreme Court for Political Cases that she and her husband were innocent.

Thaksin, who is currently in London, stands accused of abusing his position as prime minister in 2003 by allowing his wife to make a 772 million baht ($24.5 million) bid for a plot of land in a government auction.

After living in self-exile for 17 months after the coup, Thaksin returned to Thailand on Feb 28 to face an abuse-of-power case at the Supreme Court.

Despite facing numerous corruption charges, Thaksin remains tremendously popular, particularly among the poor who benefitted most from his populist policies.

Since his return, Thaksin has said repeatedly that he will avoid Thai politics and concentrate on clearing his name in court.

Thaksin’s two-term premiership between 2001 to 2006 was unique in Thailand’s long history of money-politics.

A billionaire telecommunications tycoon, Thaksin introduced populist policies to win votes rather than simply paying for them, and consequently won an unprecedented parliamentary majority that allowed him to monopolize Thai politics like no other premier before him.

Abuses of power, particularly the 2-billion-dollar tax-free sale of his Shin Corp empire in January 2006, eventually turned the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite against him, leading to his overthrow on Sep 19.

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