Sakchai Lalit/AP
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife

Former Thai Prime Minister Flees Corruption Charges

August 11, 2008 05:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife were due in court but left for London; he says he fears an assassination attempt.

Thaksin Goes to London

Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, Khunying Potjaman, both face corruption charges but had been allowed to attend the Beijing Olympics and were scheduled to return to Thailand on Sunday. But they left Beijing for Britain on Monday instead, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“What happened to me and my family and my close relations resulted from efforts to get rid of me from politics,” Thaksin said in a statement read on Thai television. “These are my political enemies. They don’t care about the rule of law, facts or internationally recognized due process.”

The couple was scheduled to appear Monday at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions regarding the Ratchadaphisek land deal, the Bangkok Post reported. The court is confiscating their $385,000 bail and has issued warrants for their arrests. Thaksin also has two other cases pending involving the digit lottery and a bank loan to Burma.

Khunying was found guilty of tax fraud last month, sentenced to three years in jail and released on bail. She returned to Thailand from Britain in January, and Thaksin followed her to the country in February to face his own corruption charges.

The Thai stock market hit a three-week high after the news, due to the hope that Shinawatra’s departure will quell protests against the government.

“We have a potential legitimate solution to a three year political crisis,” said Andrew Stotz, head of research at CLSA Securities in Bangkok. “Local investors will find it positive and ready to start investing but it may be foreign funds and big funds who will wait and see.”

Key Player: Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin, whose family owns a telecommunications conglomerate worth billions, is notable for being the first Thai prime minister to successfully complete a full term leading the elected government. In 2006, he was deposed in a bloodless military coup on charges of corruption and abuse of power after serving for five years. Thaksin moved to the U.K. and purchased the Manchester City football club, then returned to Thailand in 2007 when his party won elections. Last month, while he was still facing corruption charges, the courts charged his wife with tax fraud.

Forbes ranks Thaksin and his family 16th among Thailand’s wealthiest. When Shinawatra moved to Britain to avoid corruption charges, Thai authorities froze $2 billion of his assets from the sale of his telecom company, Shin Corp.

Related Topics: Hmong refugees, Thailand–Cambodia border tensions


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