Return or face arrest, Thaksin told

Deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has been ordered back to Thailand from self-exile to hear formal charges of concealing assets in a family property company or face arrest. The order, by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), requires Tha-ksin and his wife, to be back in Thailand before June 29 or face a possible arrest warrant being issued. “All must come in person, including Thaksin who cannot use political circumstances as an excuse or authorise any representatives,” DSI director-general Sunai Manomai-udom told local media.

The DSI accused Thaksin, a multimillionaire businessman before entering politics, and his wife Pojaman of concealing shares in the pr-operty company, SC Asset, a listed firm, violating the Securities and Exchange Act. The move marks a new twist in efforts to end Thaksin’s political influence as well as investigate corruption allegations during his five years in power, beginning with the Sept 19 coup.

Interim PM Surayud Chulanont told reporters the government would guarantee Thaksin’s safety if he chooses to return and fight the charges against him. The DSI’s call for Thaksin and his wife to return to Thailand comes after the former leader, last Friday, in a pre-recorded 28-minute message, accused the junta and military-appointed government of treating him unfairly. Addressing a smaller-than-expected crowd of 10,000 supporters, Thaksin accused the junta of undermining the country’s reputation and economy and abuse of

the law. Thaksin said he would return to Thailand to fight the charges and “protect his dignity.”

His comments came at the end of a period of setbacks to his chances for a political come back. On May 30 the Constitutional Tribunal found his eight-year-old political platform, Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party, guilty of fraud during the 2006 general elections, dissolving the party and banning 111 party executives — including Thaksin — from politics for five years. A week ago an Assets Examination Committee (AEC), appointed by the junta, froze 21 bank accounts of Thaksin and his family containing up to $1.6 billion. Thaksin told the rally the freezing of his assets was a “ploy” by the junta to isolate him politically.

The AEC, comprising senior auditors and judges, listed charges of corruption and abuse of power by Thaksin, favouring his business interests and family while in office leading to billions lost in tax revenue. Thaksin has also been accused of human rights abuses and efforts to extend his power through appointments in the military, police and bureaucracy, as well as harassing the media. Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, leader of Council for National Security (CNS), told a seminar on Monday that plans to prosecute Thaksin over corruption charges and prevent his return to politics were on target.

At last Friday’s rally many stood by their fallen leader. A 69-year-old medical practitioner, who called herself ‘Dr. Pat’, said there were still those who believed he was not corrupt. Dr. Pat said she feared for Thaksin’s safety if he returns to face the courts. “We would like him to come back but we’re not sure about his safety — about the assassination — it’s maybe or maybe not, right?” “We still support Thaksin,” Dr. Pat said. “I think all the people here would like to support Thaksin because for the other party we do not see any result in the past, they just keep talking.” — IPS