Former Thai premier denies allegations he ordered extrajudicial killings while in office

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press

Published: August 2, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has denied allegations that he condoned extrajudicial killings during his premiership, his lawyer said following complaints by a human rights group that he was not fit to own English Premier League soccer club Manchester City.

“The people who accused him have not been able to come up with any evidence whatsoever to prove that he ordered extrajudicial killings, whether it be in the war on Muslim insurgency or the war on drugs,” said Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin’s lawyer and de facto spokesman in Thailand.

Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile in London, became a billionaire through his telecommunications business.

He was ousted in a military coup last September and the military-appointed government has frozen about US$2 billion (€1.5 billion) worth of his personal assets. He faces a series of corruption charges relating to his five years in power.

Thaksin took control of the Manchester City soccer club in July, but the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday challenged the Premier League’s “fit and proper persons” test, which can be used to decide on suitable directors and owners of clubs.

Human Rights Watch alleged in a letter to the Premier League that Thaksin’s premiership had seen extrajudicial executions, illegal abductions, arbitrary detention, torture and other mistreatment of people in detention.

However, the league replied that Thaksin was allowed to buy the club because he was living in Britain legally and has not been convicted of any offense.

“I hope the rights groups are fair … he should be presumed innocent until he is proven guilty,” Noppadon said. “I don’t see why he would not be fit and proper.”

However, Thailand’s Justice Ministry said Wednesday it wanted planned to investigate the deaths of some 2,500 people during a campaign against drugs three years ago on Thaksin’s orders.

Thai and foreign human rights groups have long claimed that many of the deaths were the result of extrajudicial killings carried out by police and security personnel.

Thaksin’s government claimed the killings were at the hands of illicit drug gangs trying to silence informers during an intensive government crackdown on the drug trade, but few people were arrested or prosecuted for the murders.

Justice Ministry Permanent Secretary Jaran Pakdithanakul said Thursday the circumstances of the killings would be discussed during a weekly Cabinet meeting next Tuesday and a committee would be set up to investigate.

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