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Thailand's Thaksin skips bail, goes into exile PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 August 2008

BANGKOK Mon Aug 11,( - Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra skipped bail on Monday and went into exile, alleging that political enemies who removed him in a 2006 coup were meddling in the courts to "finish off" him and his family.

In a hand-written statement faxed to news outlets from his refuge in London, Thaksin, 59, apologized to the Supreme Court for failing to appear in a corruption case involving him and his wife, Potjaman.

"I must apologize again for deciding to come to live in England. If I am fortunate enough, I will return and die on Thai soil, just like other Thais," he said.

His decision to flee rather than fight a slew of corruption charges logged since the coup helped pushed the stock market 3 percent higher on hopes political temperatures might cool down after three years of turmoil.

Analysts said it could mean the government that came to power in December elections on the back of Thaksin's rural popularity might get a break from round-the-clock, anti-Thaksin street protests and be able to concentrate on the economy.

However, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the motley group of royalists, businessmen and Bangkok middle-classes united by their hatred of Thaksin, said it was not going to give up until the six-party coalition fell.

"Thaksin's exile is another victory for us, but our ultimate goal is to finish off the Thaksin regime by kicking out his puppet government," spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan told Reuters.


Thaksin said his decision to leave Thailand less than six months after returning from post-coup exile had been forced on him because his foes were meddling in the judicial system "to finish off myself and my family".

"These are my political enemies. They don't care about the rule of law, facts or internationally recognized due process," he said.

Potjaman was sentenced last month to three years in jail for tax fraud, but freed on bail pending an appeal. The couple's departure for China with a large amount of luggage immediately after the verdict sparked rumors they were going into exile.

Analysts say it was probably the prospect of his wife doing jail time that forced Thaksin, who had been on bail of 8 million baht ($237,000), to leave the country.

His parting swipe at the judicial system in defiance of rigidly enforced contempt of court laws means he will not be able to return for a long time, analysts said.

"He has defamed the court, and so he's gone for good," Thaksin biographer and political analyst Chris Baker said.

"He is quite an emotional fellow, and he has lashed out very often in the past," he added. "My guess is that over the last few weeks and months, he's splashed out a lot of money to try and get himself out of this, and it's failed, and he's very angry."

His criticism of the courts is also likely to jeopardize any bid to get his hands on more than $2 billion in Thai bank accounts frozen since the coup, which was widely believed to have been orchestrated by Thailand's royalist, military elite.

Thaksin had been due to return to Bangkok from the Olympic Games with his wife on Sunday evening but instead quietly took a plane to London the previous day, an aide said.

He owns UK football club Manchester City and has a property in a swish west London district. At least one of his adult children is studying in London.

After his removal by the army in 2006, mainly on the pretext of "rampant corruption", Thaksin spent much of his time in the British capital, as well as in Hong Kong and Beijing.

The army-appointed interim government looked into trying to extradite him under a bilateral criminal treaty signed with Britain in 1911, but never lodged a formal request.

($1=33.66 Baht)

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