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Thailand to follow up case against ex-PM and wife

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August 13, 2008

Thailand to follow up case against ex-PM and wife
Thailand will continue prosecution of the land purchase case involving former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and wife who skipped bail Monday to stay in London, said the Thai News Agency (TNA).

Thailand’s chief prosecutor Nunthasuk Poonsook, a member of the working committee probing the land purchase in Bangkok’s prime Ratchadapisek commercial district by the couple, said that the prosecutor would continue the trial until the case is closed on August 22.

Thaksin, ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006, and his wife are still required to testify in court on that day.
The Supreme Court’s criminal division for holders of political positions on Monday issued arrest warrants for them after they failed to appear at the court in the morning and also confiscated bail totaling 13 million baht.
The couple flew to London from Beijing but Thaksin said in his handwritten statement distributed to the media that he and his wife would not attend the court hearing.

The couple was charged with purchasing the property at the questionably low price of 772 million baht ($26 million) from the Bank of Thailand’s Financial Institutions Development Fund in 2003 while he was in office, which was against the constitution.

Thaksin was subsequently charged with alleged corruption and abuse of power. Both Thaksin and his wife, who was convicted on July 31 on a separate case of tax evasion and released on bail, have denied any wrongdoing.

Nunthasuk said as long as the case is not closed, extradition requests for the couple cannot be lodged with Britain. Also, it has to be studied whether the guilty is committed in both his home country and the country where he is staying.

Asked whether Thaksin could apply for taking political asylum in Britain, Nunthasuk said it is “up to the consideration” of British officials.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Tarit Charoongwat on Monday ruled out the possibility of the Thai government moving to seek exile for a citizen, saying it is unjustifiable to do that.

In principle, Tarit said, people, who seek exile in foreign countries, must have sufficient reason to back their claim of being unable to live in their country due to differences of views to the administrative rule or for a security concern.

So, it is unjustified for the Thai government or any governments to seek exile for their citizens because that means they are unable to take care of their nationals properly.

Asked whether the ministry would be informed in case former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra seeks exile in England, he said the matter is up to the discretion of the British Embassy in Thailand.

In accordance with Britain’s immigration law implemented by that country’s Interior Ministry, officials could not reveal the status of people who go into exile.

“I cannot identify what status Thaksin is using to live in England. One person can live in a particular country under different status such as businessperson and investors.

“So, the ex-premier can live in England in a status other than being an exile,” he said.

Tarit said the ministry would not act as a coordinator of Thaksin’s exile, adding that what it could do on the matter relies on the court’s order.

Asked whether it is necessary for the ministry to seek extradition, he said Thailand and England had a mutual agreement on the matter and the ministry is ready to liaise with the British government through its embassy in Thailand or the Thai embassy in England if requested by the court and public lawyers.

Regarding news reports that the ministry would seize the diplomatic passports held by Thaksin and his wife, Tarit said he had was not yet aware of the matter, but that in principle the court is entitled to revoke or terminate passports of convicted people to prevent them from escaping into other countries.

Thaksin and his wife diplomatic passports were reinstated when his then legal advisor Noppadon Pattama assumed the position of foreign minister.

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