Thailand's fugitive ex-premier decides not to appeal conviction

Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra has decided not to appeal an abuse-of-power conviction that carries a two-year jail sentence and has turned him in to a divorced, wandering exile, his lawyer confirmed Tuesday.

On October 21, the Supreme Court for Political Office Holders found Thaksin guilty of abusing his position as premier in 2003 by allowing his wife Pojaman to successfully bid on a prime plot of Bangkok land at a government office, reported dpa.

Thaksin was allowed 30 days to appeal the case, but would have needed to present new evidence.

Khamnuan Chalopatham, Thaksin's lawyer, confirmed that the former prime minister would not appeal the verdict, but he provided no explanation for the decision, The Nation news website reported.

The verdict was made when Thaksin and his wife were living in self-exile in London, where they had fled on August 11 after Pojaman was sentenced to three years in prison by the Bangkok Criminal Court for in a separate tax-evasion case.

Earlier this month, Britain revoked the couple's visas when the couple were visiting China, citing the Supreme Court verdict as the reason.

On Friday Thaksin revealed that he had divorced Pojaman in Hong Kong, for "legal reasons," according to close friends.

Thaksin, a former policeman turned billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was Thai prime minister between 2001 to 2006.

He was toppled by a military coup on September 19, 2006, on charges of mass corruption, dividing the nation and undermining Thai democracy and the monarchy.

Some 76 billion baht (2.3 billion dollars) of the family assets have been frozen in Thai bank accounts and may be confiscated if the courts find Thaksin "unusually wealthy," a legal phrase used to describe political corruption in Thailand.

Thaksin, who made his personal fortune off government telecommunication concessions, came to power in 2001 on a platform of populist policies aimed at winning the vote of the urban and rural poor.

He won the devotion of Thailand's much-neglected poor, and secured an absolute majority in parliament during the 2005 general election.

Mounting complaints of corruption and abuse of power, topped by Thaksin's decision to sell his family-owned Shin Corp to Singapore's Temasek Holding in early 2006 - in a tax-free deal that reaped him 2 billion dollars - turned Thailand's middle class and political elite against him, and ultimately led to his downfall.

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