When Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, flew into London Sunday night, fleeing indictment and a Monday court date in Bangkok, he illustrated the old saw that the very rich are very different from you and me. Thaksin’s wealth and influence allowed him to elude corruption charges back home, enjoy an easeful exile as the owner of the Manchester City soccer club, and prepare the way for a claim of political asylum in Britain.

Thaksin’s actions as a fugitive from justice merit attention not merely because he is reputed to be the richest man in Thailand or because of his international notoriety. Until he was removed from power in a bloodless coup, the media magnate presided over a

debased version of democracy, a system that preserved the external forms of popular sovereignty but little of its substance.

Thaksin’s allegations about a tainted Thai judiciary and his assertion that the cases against him are political should be seen as transparent attempts to lay the foundation for a claim of political asylum in British courts. Thaksin ought to be made to answer the charges against him in the Thai courts. It could also inoculate Thailand — and perhaps other countries as well — against the malady of one-man rule by the world’s richest media moguls or energy barons.