Thaksin’s wife back in Thailand

BBC News

Pojamarn Shinawatra, pictured in March 2007Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 07:26 GMT

Pojamarn Shinawatra says she will fight the charges against her

The wife of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra has returned to Thailand to fight corruption charges against her.

Pojaman Shinawatra was arrested on arrival, but released on bail after appearing at the Supreme Court.

With her husband, she faces two sets of charges related to alleged violation of stock-trading laws and a land sale.

Her return comes as the People Power Party, which backs Mr Thaksin, works to form a government after winning the most seats in last month’s election.

In the first polls since the military coup of September 2006, the PPP fell short of an outright majority and is seeking to form a coalition with smaller parties.

But 65 of its winning candidates now face investigation over possible voting fraud, prompting party leader Samak Sundaravej to accuse coup leaders of sabotaging his efforts to form a government.

Court appearance

Mr Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, and his wife have been living outside Thailand since the military seized power, accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.

Thaksin Shinawatra, at a press conference in Hong Kong in December 2007

Mr Thaksin has said he will return once a government is in place

Last year, Thai courts issued arrest warrants for the couple in connection with two financial cases.

One relates to the purchase of a plot of land in central Bangkok, the second to an alleged attempt to conceal assets, violating the stock-trading law.

The couple deny any wrongdoing and say the charges against them are politically motivated.

In a statement on Monday issued via her lawyer, Pojaman said that she was “willing to fight the case in court in accordance with the judicial system”.

Arriving in Bangkok, she was handed an arrest warrant by waiting police, who took her straight to the Supreme Court for a hearing related to the real estate deal.

There she was released on bail of 5m baht ($149,000, £75,600) and ordered not to leave the country.

Pojaman Shinawatra has always been seen as her husband’s closest political and business partner, and some analysts see her return as an attempt to prepare the way for Mr Thaksin’s eventual homecoming.

Mr Thaksin remains overseas, but says he plans to return to Thailand by April, once a new government is in power.

The new parliament is due to convene on 22 January, but as yet no government has been formed.

Thaksin’s wife: partner in the empire

ABC News

Posted Tue Jan 8, 2008 9:00pm AEDT
Updated Tue Jan 8, 2008 9:18pm AEDT

Thaksin Shinawatra (L) and his wife Pojaman.

Thaksin Shinawatra (L) and his wife Pojaman. (AFP: Andrew Yates)

Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s wife Pojaman, who has returned to Bangkok to face corruption charges, is the silent partner in her husband’s political and corporate interests.

Described by Mr Thaksin as his conscience and the only person he completely trusts, Pojaman built up a fortune guiding his decision-making but now risks prison over their lucrative business dealings.

Mr Thaksin, 58, has lived in self-imposed exile abroad since the military toppled his government in September 2006, and Pojaman, 51, has spent the last six months with her husband before she returned to Thailand alone on Tuesday to face the charges.

Always perfectly coiffed and dressed in sharp tailored suits, Pojaman often appears in Thai media but rarely says anything.

Rather, she perfected the art of appearing in public as the concerned wife and mother, allowing cameras to capture her during religious ceremonies or accompanying Mr Thaksin and their three children.

But behind the scenes, she reportedly exerts enormous influence over Mr Thaksin and his political and business interests, and is a trusted trouble-shooter when things go wrong.

She was once called a “shrewd political femme fatale” by the Nation daily.

“No matter how important I have become, I always listen to her,” Mr Thaksin once told reporters while he was still prime minister.

While Mr Thaksin has stayed abroad since the coup, Pojaman has shuttled in and out of the country, managing his affairs here and then travelling to meet him as he travels the world.

Building an empire

Pojaman was born on November 22, 1956, as the youngest of four children of former assistant national police chief Sameur Damapong.

She started her education at the prestigious Saint Joseph Convent School, where she first met Mr Thaksin, who was a friend of her brother.

She went on to study arts in the United States where Mr Thaksin was studying for his doctorate.

They married in Thailand in 1976, and had three children – Panthongtae, Pintongta and Praethongtan.

Pojaman helped Mr Thaksin build up a small computer business into a telecom empire that became known as Shin Corp and included Thailand’s biggest mobile phone company, Advanced Info Service.

When he became prime minister, Mr Thaksin relied on Pojaman to resolve feuding within his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party, and she was generally perceived as his only true confidante on matters of policy and business.

Much of the billions of dollars that Mr Thaksin earned through Shin Corp was actually held in her name. She even owned the glass-and-steel high-rise where TRT once kept its party headquarters.

But Mr Thaksin’s fall has left her – as well as her step-brother and two of her children – in the sights of corruption-busters appointed by the junta.

She is under investigation in a slate of corruption cases, including over Mr Thaksin’s sale of Shin Corp to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings in January 2006.

The Shin Corp deal sparked huge public protests against Mr Thaksin that eventually led to the coup, and ultimately her appearance in court on Tuesday.

AFP

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