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Ousted premier back home to face corruption charges


February 28, 2008

Ousted premier back home to face corruption charges

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 amid corruption allegations, flew home from exile Thursday morning to face charges and vowed to stay out of politics.

Thaksin’s allies, including Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and other top government officials, and his supporters welcomed him at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok.

Upon his arrival, Thaksin was detained by Thai authorities and taken to a court where he was ordered to post $267,000 in bail pending a hearing on March 12, Associated Press quoted court secretary Rakkiat Pattanapong as saying.

Speaking to journalists in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Thaksin called the charges against him "unjust, unfair allegations" that were "cooked up by my political enemies."

"I believe in the Thai justice system, especially the court system," Thaksin, 58, was quoted by news agencies as saying at Hong Kong's airport.

His return was seen as a test of the country's political stability, with critics warning that the populist billionaire's homecoming could plunge the country into renewed crisis.

Thaksin repeated his pledge that he wouldn't seek to regain his political post. "I'm finished," he said.

Thaksin and his wife, Pojaman, face corruption and conflict of interest charges in connection with her purchase of prime Bangkok real estate from a state agency in 2003, while he was prime minister. Pojaman returned to Thailand in January and was released on bail pending trial. Thaksin, a former telecommunications magnate, also faces separate charges of concealing assets.

Meanwhile Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who called himself a nominee of Thaksin during election campaigns last year, told a group of visiting Japanese journalists Wednesday that Thai politics had returned to an even keel after democratic elections in December.

Samak said even though the House speaker has recently been disqualified for alleged election fraud and Thaksin’s return, politics in Thailand are back to normal. House of Representatives Speaker Yongyut Tiyapairat was disqualified by the Election Commission on Tuesday, but politics "move on smoothly," he was quoted as telling Kyodo news agency.

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