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Thailand’s ex-premier to seek asylum in Britain


August 21, 2008

Thailand’s ex-premier to seek asylum in Britain

Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will seek political asylum in Britain, claiming that he and his family are not safe in Thailand, AFP quoted his lawyer as saying Wednesday.

Thaksin, 59, and his wife Pojaman, 51, and their three adult children fled to London last week. Pojaman has been convicted of tax evasion, and they both face corruption charges in a property scandal.

"At this moment, Thaksin's legal team is proceeding to ask for political asylum for Thaksin and his family in Britain," said Watchara Seangprathum, one of Thaksin's Thai lawyers.

"His asylum request will note their malicious treatment in Thailand, where they lack security and freedom," Watchara told reporters.

Thaksin has accused the Thai courts of bias and said he feared his family could not receive a fair trail.

Thousands of protesters on Tuesday paraded through central Bangkok, and staged a protest outside the British embassy, asking the UK not to harbour the ex-premier. Watchara said Thaksin had instructed his lawyers to file a defamation suit against the protest leaders for parading in a truck carrying a giant banner bearing photos of him and Pojaman and reading "Most Wanted."

The Supreme Court is trying Thaksin and Pojaman in absentia on corruption charges accusing him of using his political influence as premier to help his wife buy a plot of prime Bangkok real estate from the central bank at a bargain price.

They each face up to 13 years in prison if convicted. Since the case is before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division of the Political Office Holders, they would have no avenue of appeal. Since the case is before the Supreme Court, they would have no avenue of appeal.

Authorities have already frozen 76 billion baht ($2.3 billion) of Thaksin's assets pending resolution of the case.

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