Thai former Prime Minister seeks asylum in United Kingdom 2008-08-12 00:07:53   Print

    By Shen Min

    BANGKOK, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday issued a statement from London to announce through Thai TVs his decision to seek asylum in the United Kingdom in an attempt to avoid what he called "unfair" treatment under Thailan's current judicial system.

    Some have considered the statement as a signal of easing-off of political tension in Thailand.

    The Supreme Court's Criminal Tribunal for Holders of Political Positions later on the day issued arrests warrants for Thaksin and his wife Pojaman for failing to report to the court for corruption charges as scheduled on Monday.

    Thaksin's statement, hand-written and signed by the ex-premier, was faxed to and read on Thai TV stations at around Monday noon in the country.

    Thaksin said in the statement that he had to seek asylum in England because he and his family did not receive "justice" in Thai courts, which had been interfered by his political opponents.

    Thaksin said he and his family had been "unfairly treated" ever since the September 19, 2006 military coup ousted his administration when he was attending the United Nations general assembly in New York.

    Thaksin and Pojaman were expected to testify as co-defendants at a hearing in the Supreme Court in Bangkok to face charges of abuse of power in a 2003 land purchase case, in which the ex-premier was accused of unlawfully using his influence to help his wife get the deal in a government auction at a much-lower-than-market price.

    In the statement, Thaksin said that at first he thought the election result of December 23, which saw the People Power Party (PPP), seen in Thailand as an reincarnation of the Thaksin-founded, now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT), win most seats in the House of Representatives, would help "improve the situation".

    So he decided to return to Thailand in February from a 17-monthexile in Britain since the coup to "prove his innocence" in court.

    But the situation turned to the unfavorable side. "What has happened to me is like a poisoned fruits that came from a poisoned tree," said Thaksin in the statement.

    Thaksin apologized to his supporters for having to go into exile in England and asked them to remain committed to him.

    He also maintained his and his family's loyalty to the Thai royalty "though some have tried to accuse me of being otherwise."

    Thaksin said he and his family will remain in exile in England, without giving a possible date for his return to his homeland, but he declared he would like to live and die in Thailand if luck would have it.

    He said his political enemies have tried everything to drive him out of Thailand's political arena, and even attempted to assassinate him.

    Thaksin and his wife Pojaman had been expected to fly back to Bangkok on Sunday from Beijing, where the couple attended the Olympics 2008 opening ceremony on August 8.

    Among dozens of corruption and malfeasance charges and accusations, Thaksin were now indicted in three cases -- the land purchase deal, a government lottery scheme and another about a state loan to Myanmar, both pending trial in the Supreme Court.

    His wife Pojaman was sentenced to a three-year jail term by the Criminal Court on July 31 after the court found her guilty of tax evasion involving 546 million baht (some 15.8 million U.S. dollars)in a share-transfer deal. Pojaman was released later on bail. The couple has denied all charges all along.

    The now defunct Assets Examination Committee (AEC), which was established by the junta after the coup to investigate corruption accusations related to Thaksin and his cabinet members, have frozen some 69 billion baht (about 2 billion U.S. dollars) of Thaksin's family assets.

    Thaksin's fleeing may disappointed supporters at home, who had welcomed him as a hero on February 28 when he returned to Bangkok after the post-coup overseas self-exile, but the hopes that his indefinite absence from the Thai political arena would help ease the political tensions and bring stabilization to the situation have been reflected in the optimism in the Thai business circle.

    The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a civilian coalition which emerged in 2005 as an anti-Thaksin group and now led street protests with the aim to oust the coalition government led by PPP and Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, declared that they would not stop their attempts to bring down the current government.

    The PAD called Thaksin's seeking asylum in Britain a "victory", but vowed to continue the street protests, which had been staged in central Bangkok since May 25, to pressure the Samak government, which they has labelled as a "proxy" of Thaksin.

    It is not clear now if Thailand would seek to extradite Thaksin from Britain.

    Though Thaksin has called his supporters to "stay a bit longer" with him, many observers here deemed Monday's statement was a declaration of the "Thaksin-era".

    The 59-year-old telecom-billionaire-turned-politician led his TRT party to two unprecedented landslide election victories in 2001 and 2005 and has transformed the Thai political and economic pictures with a basket of populist policies, which were applauded by rural and urban low-incomers but lashed by critics accusing Thaksin and his allies of reaping personal benefits from government investments.

    PAD-led mass rallies and protests in 2005 and 2006 have unstablized the Thaksin administration, and climaxed to a bloodless military coup on Sept. 19, 2006. The junta toppled Thaksin, charging his administration of corruption, dictatorship, causing social division, and undermining constitutional monarchy institution, and appointed courts disbanded the TRT party.

    Many former TRT party members later joined the PPP to win the December 23 election last year, viewed by opponents as a political come-back of the "Thaksin power clique."

Editor: Yan
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