Thaksin taken into police custody

 

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) — Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was taken into police custody Thursday after arriving on Thai soil and ending 17 months of exile to face corruption charges, police said.

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Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives at Hong Kong International Airport earlier Thursday.

 

Thai authorities took the 58-year-old billionaire politician into custody after his arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on a Thai Airways flight from Hong Kong, said police Maj. Gen. Thaweesak Toochinda, the head of airport immigration police.

Two arrest warrants were issued for Thaksin after the September 2006 coup that ousted him. He faces corruption charges in two separate cases that date to his time in office from 2001-2006 and could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison.

His return to Thailand to fight charges of corruption and abuse of power ends 17 months of self-imposed exile Thursday, returning to Thailand to fight charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Upon touchdown from Hong Kong, he was expected to report to the country’s Supreme Court.

A pro-Thaksin Web site on Tuesday urged supporters to greet the former prime minister at the airport at 9 a.m. local time (0200 GMT), and thousands were expected to congregate.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy, which in the past has staged numerous demonstrations denouncing Thaksin’s rule, told CNN on Tuesday that it did not have any plans to protest on Thursday.

If that decision stands, it will null the possibility of clashes between the two camps on Thursday. Video Watch what can be expected on Thaksin’s return »

In December’s parliamentary elections, Thaksin’s allies, the People Power Party, won nearly half the seats in the lower house and paved the way for his return.

The 58-year-old billionaire is accused of abusing the country’s system of checks and balances and bending government policy to benefit his family’s business.

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Thaksin and his wife Pojamarn face charges stemming from a Bangkok land deal and an alleged stock concealment plan. In the real estate transaction, the wife is accused of purchasing undeveloped land for about a third of its estimated value.

She has pleaded not guilty and is free on five million baht (about $168,000) bail and is under orders not to leave the country.

Thaksin faces separate charges of concealing assets.

Thaksin also owns the English Premier League Manchester City Football Club.

 

His party won two landslide victories before he was deposed in a bloodless military coup in September 2006 while traveling abroad. He has never returned to Thailand since.

Thaksin has said he would not re-enter politics when he comes home. He said that he and his family had “suffered enough” but that he wanted to face the charges against him and prove his innocence.

 

BBC News

Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 00:09 GMT

Former Thai PM Thaksin flies home

Supporters of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra at Bangkok airport, 28 Feb 2008

Supporters are waiting for Thaksin in Bangkok

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is flying home from Hong Kong after 17 months away.

He said he would defend himself against unfair accusations and said he had faith in the Thai justice system.

Mr Thaksin faces allegations of corruption in Thailand, brought by the leaders of the September 2006 coup which removed him from office.

Large crowds of his supporters are waiting at Bangkok airport to welcome him back to the country.

He still has strong popular support in Thailand and analysts fear his return could prompt further political unrest.

“Nobody can push him out. He is a good guy. Thai people love him,” said one supporter, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Mr Thaksin told reporters that he was confident of his innocence and was ready to prove he had done nothing wrong.

He said he would report to the authorities on his arrival.

Current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said he welcomed his former ally’s return.

“It’s normal that he must defend himself in the court and my government will not interfere,” Mr Samak said.

‘Normal citizen’

Mr Thaksin’s party, Thai Rak Thai, was outlawed following the coup and he was personally banned from politics for five years.

Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra at Hong Kong airport, 28 Feb 2008

Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in September 2006

But many of his followers went on the form the People Power Party (PPP), which won elections in December last year.

Mr Thaksin has insisted that he does not plan to get involved in politics on his return, but the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says that as the PPP’s main financier, Mr Thaksin has great authority.

Mr Thaksin said: “I just want to be going back as a normal citizen and would like to live my life peacefully with my family.

“Democracy returned to Thailand. So, it is time for those who are democratic advocates to go back.”

Our correspondent says Mr Thaksin’s millions of supporters will see his return as final proof that the coup leaders failed to destroy his political career.

There is expected to be heavy security surrounding Mr Thaksin’s arrival.

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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 04:17 GMT

 

 

Former Thai PM Thaksin back home

Supporters of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra at Bangkok airport, 28 Feb 2008

A large crowd of supporters was waiting for Thaksin in Bangkok

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been released on bail shortly after his arrival in Thailand after spending 17 months in exile.

He said he would beat what he called politically motivated corruption charges from the years he was in power.

The 58-year-old billionaire businessman was briefly detained by police on his arrival at Bangkok airport.

He was removed from power in a military coup in September 2006 and has lived outside the country since then.

At the airport he was greeted by a huge roar from thousands of flag-waving supporters.

Some of the key figures from the new government were there to meet him before he was whisked away to the Supreme Court where he was granted bail.

He is allowed to travel abroad, but only with the court’s permission.

Opponents’ fears

“I have to restore my reputation which has been tarnished by the coup,” he told reporters with him on the plane from Hong Kong.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Harding on the flight, Mr Thaksin said he wouldn’t be seeking revenge against the coup bosses who forced him out of power after five years in office.

He said he had mixed feelings about returning to home, but that he had finished with politics and wished to focus on his football interests – he owns Manchester City and was travelling with two of the British club’s players.

His party, Thai Rak Thai, was outlawed following the coup and he was personally banned from politics for five years but his opponents fear he has returned to influence events from behind-the-scenes.

Many of Mr Thaksin’s followers formed the People Power Party (PPP), which won elections in December last year.


Thaksin heads home to Thailand

Pro-Thaksin websites have urged supporters to turn out to welcome the former PM’s return [EPA]

Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai prime minister, is flying home to Bangkok ending his self-imposed exile 17 months after he was ousted in a bloodless coup.

Supporters and opponents have promised a noisy welcome when he lands at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday morning and security has been tightened ahead of his arrival.

Thaksin has said he intends to fight corruption charges and unfreeze hundreds of millions of dollars in business assets seized after the September 2006 coup.

Speaking to reporters before departing Hong Kong on a Thai airways flight, he said he was a “little bit” concerned about his security, but he added he did not think his return would spark violence.

“I used to say when I was prime minister that there were attempts to assassinate me. Normally I would have some concerns but I hope that everyone is thinking of national reconciliation and they will prepare (security measures) for me well,” he said.

Thaksin has spent most of his time in exile living in the UK, where he owns Manchester City football club.

His wife Pojaman, who returned to Thailand last month, also faces corruption and conflict of interest charges from when her husband was prime minister.

The charges were brought by the previous government installed by the Thai military after the 2006 coup.

Thaksin’s return was secured by Thailand’s newly-elected leader, Samak Sundaravej, whose People Power Party (PPP) is regarded as a proxy for Thaksin.

The PPP, comprising mostly of Thaksin allies, won nationwide elections in December and forms the core of Thailand’s new six-party coalition government.

Thaksin himself has repeatedly said he has no plans to return to politics, although supporters and opponents both doubt his claims.

Senior officials from the PPP are expected to be at Bangkok airport to welcome Thaksin as he returns on Thursday – as are court officials who will present the corruption charges to him.

Chalerm Yoobambrung, the country’s newly-appointed interior minister and a long-time Thaksin ally, said he will personally welcome the former prime minister with open arms.

“I will be there as the old friend … who promised voters that if they chose the People Power Party we would bring Thaksin back with full honours.”

Thaksin is being accompanied on his return by two Manchester City players who have said they plan to hold soccer clinics with Thai children and work out the national team.

Warning

Thaksin, seen with his wife Pojaman, has lived
in exile since the 2006 coup [GALLO/GETTY]

On Tuesday Samak Sundaravej, the Thai prime minister, warned activists not to take to the streets during Thaksin’s return.

A spokesman for Samak quoted him as saying: “It’s normal that he must defend himself in the court and my government will not interfere.”

Thai officials have said that protesters could be charged with obstruction of justice if they try to prevent Thaksin from reporting to court.

Critics fear Thaksin’s homecoming could plunge the country into another political crisis.

His opponents have threatened to mobilise protesters and stage demonstrations if the new government tries to intervene in the legal process against him.

Thaksin and his wife each face up to 13 years in jail over two corruption charges alleging she used her husband’s political influence to buy prime Bangkok property from a government agency at about one third of its estimated value.

Thaksin denies any abuse of power.

The couple also face separate charges of making fraudulent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the 2003 listing of a property company.

Following the coup, Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai [Thais Love Thais] party was disbanded for electoral fraud and more than 100 senior party officials including him were banned from politics for five years.

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