Controversial former prime minister to return to Thailand

February 26th, 2008 - 3:03 pm ICT by admin  

Bangkok, Feb 26 (DPA) Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will return home from self-imposed exile Thursday for the first time since his overthrow in a military coup in September 2006, his lawyer said Tuesday. On his arrival, Thaksin would surrender to the police to face corruption charges, attorney Pichit Chuenban told Thai television.

But his legal problems have been overshadowed by the victory in parliamentary elections Dec 23 of the People Power Party, which is viewed as his proxy and now dominates the coalition government.

A website dedicated to Thaksin claimed he would return Thursday to a hero’s welcome.

Thaksin, who has retained his popularity with much of the population since his overthrow, will face criminal charges of corruption and abuse of power.

His wife Pojamon, who faces similar corruption charges, was smoothly bailed out when she returned home a month ago, in what was seen as a test run for Thaksin’s return.

The pair is accused of abusing their privileged positions when in power to buy a huge swath of land in central Bangkok from a government agency. Thaksin is also accused of hiding assets.

Analysts said it was not clear to what extent the powers that distrust Thaksin in the military, the older elites and in the palace would tolerate a resurgent Thaksin.

The Election Commission ruled Tuesday that the deputy leader of the PPP was guilty of buying votes in the election. Yongyuth Tiyapairat will be ousted from parliament if the Supreme Court confirms the ruling. This also threatens the party itself, which is technically liable for any election fraud carried out by its leaders.

Political analysts say that the technical merits of the various legal challenges against Thaksin may matter less then the political will of his opponents to curb his power. If that will is lacking, court decisions will tend to go in his favour, say observers.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy, which organised mass protests against Thaksin in 2006, warned Monday that Thaksin should only return if he is prepared to face a full legal judgement.

“We cannot stand aside and watch if Thaksin is given a whitewash. He must pay the price of his actions or the protests will be huge,” said Sondhi Limthongkul, a newspaper tycoon who played a key role in whipping up anti-Thaksin protests before the coup.

Thaksin and 110 of his colleagues were banned from politics for five years following a constitutional court ruling last year. The ban remains pending moves for its removal by the current pro-Thaksin government.

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