Thai Supreme Court issues second arrest warrant for former premier

Other News Materials 16 September 2008 10:33 (UTC +04:00)

Thailand's Supreme Court for political office holders on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra for failing to appear in court to face abuse-of-power charges, reported dpa.

The court case, involving a 4-billion-baht (116-million-dollar) soft loan to the Myanmar government in 2004 by Thailand's state-owned EXIM Bank when Thaksin was still prime minister, has been suspended.

Thaksin has been living in self-exile in London since August 10.

The Supreme Court on August 11 issued a prior arrest warrant for Thaksin and his wife Pojaman for failing to attend the Ratchadaphisek land trial, another court case under the court's jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court for political office holders - a special court established by the constitution to curb political corruption - is scheduled to deliver its verdict Wednesday on whether Thaksin abused his position as prime minister when he allowed his wife to successfully bid 772 million baht (22.4 million dollars) for a plot of land on Ratchadaiphisek Road in Bangkok at a government auction in 2003.

Thailand's Criminal Court has already sentenced Pojaman, who ran Thaksin's business empire for him when he was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, to three years in prison for tax evasion.

The guilty verdict, and a host of pending corruption cases against the former first couple, prompted them to flee to Britain after posting bail and receiving court permission to attend the opening of the Olympics Games in Beijing last month.

Thaskin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was repeatedly accused of abusing his position to benefit his family businesses and those of his political cronies.

At the peak of his power, Thaksin's family wealth was estimated at well over 2 billion dollars.

Using populist policies to win the support of Thailand's urban and rural poor, and his personal wealth to win over a host of political allies, Thaksin dominated Thailand's political scene like no other prime minister before him between 2001 to 2005.

But his political monopoly began to unravel in January, 2006, after he engineered the tax-free sale of his family's equity in Shin Corp, the telecommunications conglomerate he had founded, to Singapore's Temasek Holdings for 1.9 billion dollars.

The sale, deemed the selling off of national assets since much of Shin Corp's operations were based on government concessions, outraged much of Bangkok's middle class and the political elite.

Street protests against Thaksin, and signs that the political elite wanted him out, eventually paved the way for a military coup on September 19, 2006, that toppled the former premier while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Thaksin spent more than 17 months in self-exile, primarily in London, while Thailand was under a military-appointed interim government, returning only in February this year after the pro-Thaksin People Power Party came to power.

The party, although leading the current coalition government, has failed to stop Thailand's judiciary from pursuing several corruption and abuse-of-power cases against the couple.

Thaksin and his family are reported to be seeking asylum from the British government from their exile home in London.