Thai court issues another warrant for ousted premier

Other News Materials 26 September 2008 12:43 (UTC +04:00)

Thailand's supreme court for political office holders issued an arrest warrant Friday for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he failed to show up to face charges in a case involving the country's digital lottery, reported dpa.

It was the third warrant the court has issued for the former premier and concerns Thaksin and 46 cabinet ministers in his former government who allegedly discontinued a two- and three-digit lottery scheme without due process of law.

The other 46 defendants denied all charges in court Friday and the court said it will start examining evidence on December 22.

The same court issued a warrant for Thaksin on August 11 when he failed to appear to face charges he abused his position as prime minister when he allowed his wife Pojaman Shinawatra to successfully bid 772 million baht (22.7 million dollars) for a plot of land on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok at a government auction in 2003.

The court issued another warrant on September 16 after Thaksin failed to appear to face an abuse-of-power case involving a 4-billion-baht (118 million dollar) soft loan to the Myanmar government in 2004 by Thailand's state-owned EXIM Bank when Thaksin was still prime minister.

The earlier two cases have been suspended because Thaksin is not present to hear them.

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.

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

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 bloodless military coup on September 19, 2006, that toppled him 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 while Thaksin's brother-in-law holds the premiership, has failed to stop Thailand's judiciary from pursuing several corruption and abuse-of-power cases against the couple.

Thaksin is again living in self-imposed exile in London.