Protesters in Thailand ask Britain to refuse ex-premier asylum

August 19th, 2008 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Aug 19 (DPA) Thousands of Thai protesters marched on the British embassy here Tuesday to demand that Britain refuse asylum to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, Pojaman, who fled to London last week to escape pending corruption cases against them.About 2,000 protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy, a loose coalition of anti-Thaksin groups, stopped traffic on Ploenchit road, a major artery in central Bangkok, as they marched to the embassy, where they shouted slogans and delivered a letter to the ambassador.

“We, the People’s Alliance for Democracy, feel that Thaksin and his wife should return to Thailand to face the charges being brought against them,” the letter said.

“Should they seek political asylum, any democratic country should not allow them to ignore the law of Thailand,” it added.

Thaksin and Pojaman jumped bail Aug 11 when they refused to return to Thailand from Beijing, where the former first couple had been granted court permission to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Instead of flying to Bangkok, the couple boarded a plane for London Aug 10, defying a court order that they return to the kingdom to face charges of abuse of power in a land purchase deal in 2003 when Thaksin was prime minister.

Thaksin, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon who bought the Manchester City football club in 2007 and owns properties in London, has announced plans to live in England although he had not yet officially sought asylum.

In a handwritten statement after his flight, Thaksin claimed his life had been threatened and he was a victim of a biased judiciary in Thailand, claims that might assist him in his search for political asylum.

Thailand’s Supreme Court has issued arrest warrants for Thaksin and Pojaman, but Thailand has not yet sought their extradition.

Thaksin faced at least four corruption and abuse of power cases from his controversial premiership while his wife was sentenced to three years in prison on a tax evasion charge July 31.

Thaksin was prime minister for two terms from 2001 to Sept 19, 2006, when he was toppled by a military coup on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democracy and the monarchy.

The Shinawatra’s three children - son, Panthongtae, and daughters Pinthongta and Paethongtan - have joined their parents in London.

Thaksin was in self-exile, mostly in London, for more than a year after the coup and only returned to Thailand in February to face several corruption charges.

A former policeman turned tycoon, Thaksin came to power on a populist platform in 2001. He remains one of Thailand’s most popular, and controversial, political figures.

While Thaksin’s populist policies won him the devotion of Thailand’s rural and urban poor, evidence of corruption and self-serving policies during his increasingly monopolistic rule turned the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite against him in early 2006, ushering in his downfall at the hands of the army.

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