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Thai court issues arrest warrants for ex-PM and wife


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August 12, 2008

Thai court issues arrest warrants for ex-PM and wife

Thailand’s special Supreme Court on Monday afternoon issued arrest warrants for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife after the billionaire couple failed to stand trial for corruption, said AFP.

Thaksin and his wife Pojaman snubbed a summons to appear before the Supreme Court for the cases involved with politicians and instead issued a statement read on state television, saying unnamed political enemies had conspired to deny them justice and that they would stay in Britain for now.

The former premier and his wife were in China over the weekend for the opening of the Beijing Olympics, and rumours had circulated that they would remain overseas as the graft cases mounted against them.

Pojaman was convicted on July 31 of tax evasion and released on bail, and the couple had been ordered to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday to defend themselves in a separate property case.

Thaksin stands accused of using his influence to win a bargain-priced property deal for Pojaman in 2003.

After they failed to appear, the court said: “The panel judge has... found that the two defendants are not returning to Thailand or presenting themselves to the court by the deadline, which violates their bail conditions.

“The court has decided to confiscate their (bail) money ... and issue arrest warrants for the two defendants.”

Thaksin and Pojaman have paid a total of 13 million baht (386,000 dollars) between them in bail related to the land case.

They had received special permission from the courts to travel, and Thaksin flew to Japan on July 31. Pojaman joined him in Beijing on Thursday.

A former legal advisor close to Thaksin said they had both flown to Britain, where Thaksin has a home and spent most of the last two years in self-imposed exile.

The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear two other cases against Thaksin -- one linked to a state lottery scheme his government legalised in 2003 and another tied to a loan Thaksin’s government gave to Myanmar.

Elections last December swept Thaksin’s allies in the People Power Party (PPP) back into government, infuriating the elites in the military, palace and bureaucracy who felt threatened by his popularity with voters in rural areas.

However, street protests have so far scuppered the PPP’s plans to amend the new constitution -- brought in under military rule -- which currently grants wide power to non-elected officials in the courts and bureaucracy.

Thailand’s courts have dealt a series of blows to the new government, with three top officials forced to resign after legal decisions.

After the coup, Thai courts also froze more than two billion dollars of Thaksin’s assets, a move which did not stop him from buying Premier League club Manchester City in July 2007.

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