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The political noose on Thaksin tightens

Updated On: Jun 22, 2007

After all the speculation earlier this week about whether Thaksin would come back to Thailandto defend his assets, the Thai authorities have now cut short the suspense.

Thaksin has now been ordered home in no uncertain terms to face criminal charges.

On Wednesday, 20 June, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) ordered Thaksin, his wife Potjaman, Bussaba Damapong and a representative of SC Asset appear in person to face charges of concealing assets by June 29, the Nation reported.

DSI director-general Sunai Manomai-udom declared, “Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Khunying Pojaman must turn up by June 29 to hear formal charges of assets concealment involving SC Asset or face arrest warrants and extradition.” He added, “All must come in person, including Thaksin who cannot use political circumstances as an excuse or authorise any representatives. In a criminal case, representatives are not applicable. If the charged individuals intentionally avoid meeting the investigating officers, they face an arrest warrant. If they are abroad, they will be extradited.”

With serving of the charges, it seems that Thaksin’s safety in Thailandis no longer a question. Where Sonthi Boonyaratglin, head of the Council of National Security (CNS), could not guarantee Thaksin’s safety last week, incumbent Prime Minister Surayud has assured Thaksin's protection when he comes back to face the DSI’s charges in Thailand. Surayud said, “The government will take special care of him but will not detain him because the charges against him are not finalized.”

The Nation noted that “the Shinawatra family reported its shareholding in SC Asset at 60.82%” instead of the actual 79.87%. This meant that “the family could control the board and the shareholders' meeting even in the case of important issues where up to three-quarters of shareholders' votes who attend the meeting are required”. Additionally, the DSI will forward the case to the National Counter Corruption Commission as “Thaksin did not report his hidden assets when he was prime minister”. If sentenced, Thaksin and his wife “could face jail of up to two years or a fine of up to 500,000 baht and a fine of another 10,000 baht a day since committing the offences, or both”.

On another count of corruption, public prosecutors have filed the first formal corruption charges against the Shinawatra couple over Pojaman’s purchase of a Bt772-million plot of land in Ratchadapisek in 2002. Article 100 of the National Counter Corruption Act states that state officials and their spouses are not allowed to conduct business with a state agency. The Supreme Court judges will decide on July 10 if they will accept the case, the Bangkok Post reported. If convicted, the maximum sentence is three years and a fine of up to 60,000 baht.Thaksin has of course remained defiant in the face of this additional “bullying”. For one, his lawyer Noppadol Pattama said that Thaksin would not return as “there are other ways to acknowledge the charges”, the Bangkok Post noted. The Assets Scrutiny Committee had earlier said that “Thaksin can acknowledge charges abroad”.

Thaksin has appeared unaffected by all this news and seems more eager to secure his desired football team, ManchesterCity. On Thursday, 21 June, Thaksin bid 81.6 million pounds for the club. According to the Nation, Thaksin announced, “I am delighted that the board of ManchesterCityhas recommended my bid for the club. I look forward to continuing the excellent work of John Wardle and his team. I am in no doubt of the responsibility associated with leading ManchesterCityand pledge to the fans, players and staff my utmost commitment to the future success of this great club.” (21 June 2007)

Sources:Thaksin won't return to hear charges (Bangkok Post, 21 June 2007)

Prosecutors charge Thaksin, wife (Bangkok Post, 21 June 2007)

Prosecutors file corruption charges against ousted PM and wife (Nation, 21 June 2007)Thaksin bids 81.6 million pounds for ManchesterCity(Nation, 21 June 2007)Thaksin ordered to return home (Bangkok Post, 20 June 2007)

Junta orders Thaksin back to Thailand(IHT, 19 June 2007)

DSI orders Thaksin to come back(Nation, 20 June 2007)