Ousted Thai PM Thaksin could return before year’s end if charged by court, says lawyer

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: March 22, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra is ready to return to Thailand before the end of this year
if prosecutors file criminal charges against him, his lawyer said
Thursday.

“According to Thai law, criminal charges cannot be tried without the
defendant’s presence,” said Noppadol Patama, Thaksin’s lawyer and de
facto spokesman in Thailand.

“He is willing to come back if ordered by a court to defend himself and prove his innocence,” he said.

The military group that ousted him in a bloodless Sep. 19 coup has
strongly suggested Thaksin is not welcome back for the time being,
claiming his return could spark political instability. They have
indicated that he should not return before a general election planned
for this October.

At the same time, however, they are considering a number of criminal
cases against him and his family for alleged corruption and other
offenses.

“Considering that the prosecutors and anti-graft bodies are working
on these cases, I expect that charges may be filed near the end of the
year,” said Noppadol, adding that he last talked to Thaksin on
Wednesday.

Thaksin was in New York when he was deposed, and has not returned
since then, instead traveling between other countries in Asia and a
residence in London.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry revoked his diplomatic passport in an
apparent effort to make it more difficult for him to travel, after
Thaksin’s public appearances in Asia caused his successors some
apprehension.

Even if Thaksin is not summoned by the courts, Noppadol said, he has
the right to return but will not do so before elections “for the sake
of national reconciliation.”

Although alleged corruption and abuse of power were among the
excuses cited for last year’s coup, and investigations have been
launched into more than a dozen cases, no criminal charges have been
filed yet against Thaksin.

Earlier this week, police said they recommended Thaksin be prosecuted for lese majeste — insulting the nation’s monarchy.

Thaksin has said in interviews in recent months that his political
career is over and he has no immediate plans to return to Thailand.

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