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Thaksin faces arrest if he returns: Official
2008/1/9 11:47:16
Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be arrested if he returns home from a self-imposed exile as planned, even if his victorious allies form a government following last weekend's general election, officials said yesterday.

Thaksin and members of his family face an array of corruption-related charges from the former leader's six years in office. He was overthrown in a bloodless, military coup last year and has lived abroad since then, but he said on Tuesday he was looking into returning in coming months.

"The court and police had already issued arrest warrants on him so once he arrives back to Thailand the authorities concerned are duty-bound by law to arrest him," said Samphan Sarathana, a senior official in the Office of the Attorney-General.

Samphan, a director-general in the office, said the results of the election, won by the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party or PPP, had no bearing on the legal cases against the former prime minister.

"The case has gone too far for a reversal," he said.

Thaksin said on Tuesday in Hong Kong that he is exploring options to come back to Thailand between mid-February and April. He vowed to stay out of direct politics but said he was prepared to serve as adviser to the PPP.

An arrest warrant was issued for Thaksin in August after he failed to appear in court in a case involving conflict of interest in a land deal while he was in power. His wife Pojamarn is accused of illegally buying real estate from a government agency effectively controlled by her husband.

In September, a Thai criminal court issued another arrest warrant for Thaksin over alleged concealment of his ownership of millions of dollars worth of shares from the Thai stock exchange.

The military-appointed government that succeeded Thaksin launched several investigations into his alleged corruption and has frozen millions of dollars of his family's assets. Other cases against him and family members are pending.

The 58-year-old multimillionaire, who owns the Manchester City soccer club, has been living mostly in England since his ouster in September 2006.

Coalition talks under way

Thaksin's allies in the PPP won 233 of 480 seats in the lower house of Parliament in Sunday's vote, while its top rival, the Democrat Party, won 165.

The PPP says it has already gathered enough support from smaller parties to form a coalition, but analysts say that horse-trading continues and that it is too early to declare the pro-Thaksin grouping as Thailand's next government.

PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang says the party will release details of its coalition government on January 4, a day after the Election Commission certifies the results of the polls on Sunday.

Kuthep said three minor parties are expected to join PPP in a coalition government, giving it a total of 254 seats. PPP's three partners will be Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana with nine seats, Matchima Thipataya with seven, and Pracharaj with five, he said.

None of the three parties has confirmed its participation in the coalition.

The Election Commission is investigating allegations of electoral fraud, which could result in a reduction of PPP's seat tally.

The commission has said at least 24 winners could be disqualified, while new voting might be necessary in a dozen cases. It has not specified which parties' candidates were involved.

The commission says it will announce disqualifications by January 3.

Kuthep said PPP is also in talks with two other parties to join the coalition: Chart Thai, which came in third with 37 seats, and Puea Pandin, with 24. Neither party has publicly voiced its position.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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