LONDON (AFP) — Ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Thursday that a two-year corruption sentence against him was politically motivated.
Thaksin said in a statement that after hearing the judgement,
“I am still confused; there is no evidence of fraud, corruption nor abuse of power.”
He said: “I was convicted simply because I was a politician.”
Thaksin, who fled to Britain in August, was sentenced in absentia on Tuesday to two years in jail for violating corruption laws when he helped his wife buy a cut-price lot of government land in 2003.
The 59-year-old was cleared of more serious charges of abuse of power and his wife Pojaman was cleared of all charges.
The couple have said they came to Britain because they would not get a fair trial on corruption charges in Thailand.
Writing in a letter to the media addressed from his temporary home in Surrey, southeast England, Thaksin said the Thai court did not appear to have found fault with his wife’s purchase of the land.
“Interestingly, the court did not find the sale transaction of my wife unlawful or illegal, they did not convict her because she is not a politician; nevertheless, I was,” Thaksin wrote in the letter.
He continued: “If I were to be guilty of anything, that would be what I have shown to the Thai people, especially those underprivileged rural Thais that they can, and have the right to, demand their government to provide effective policy and programs to improve their lives.”
Thaksin said he represented a “threat” to various Thai elites who “believe in anything but democracy” because “I represent the principle of liberal democracy which promote hope and pride of the poor of my country (sic).”
Of his country’s future, he said he did “not know should I laugh or cry to see the direction Thailand is moving.”
He lamented the resignation of the current prime minister’s predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, after a Thai court ruled he had illegally accepted payment for TV cooking shows.
But Thailand “is and will remain a great and beautiful country” whose people “will win over this struggle,” he added.
Since the judgement, Thai prosecutors have begun gathering evidence to submit to Britain requesting Thaksin’s extradition, according to an official in the Thai attorney general’s office.
Earlier this month, a British Home Office spokesman said Thaksin and his wife had applied for political asylum, although people close to Thaksin were quoted in Thai media Wednesday as saying that report was incorrect.
Thaksin was overthrown in a military coup in September 2006, and the junta set up a corruption investigation unit to look into alleged abuses of power.
So far, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear five cases against Thaksin.
The land deal verdict on Tuesday was the first judgment against him.