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PM Shinawatra Willing To Stand Trial In Thailand

Former PM Thaksin Shinawatra Willing To Stand Trial In Thailand


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is willing to stand trial for corruption and extrajudicial murders allegedly committed during his reign, and wants to return from self-exile when martial law is lifted, his lawyer said in an interview.

"No direct allegations have been made against the former prime minister or his wife. The matters are being investigated," said Mr. Thaksin's recently appointed lawyer, Noppadol Pattama.

"He hasn't fixed the date of return. He will consider coming back when the time is right, when the situation has returned to normality, and the situation is calm."

Asked if Mr. Thaksin will return when martial law is lifted, Mr. Noppadol replied: "Most likely, most likely.

"He is a Thai national. His home is here. It is very natural for Thai people to want to come back to Thailand."

The disgraced prime minister was in New York attending the United Nations when overthrown on Sept. 19, and has since hunkered down in London, but was currently in the Chinese capital, Beijing, meeting friends and playing golf, Mr. Noppadol said.
"He has no immunity. And he is prepared to come to court, no problem," Mr. Thaksin's lawyer said.

"He is being prepared to answer all the charges, the best he can."

Asked about public demands that Mr. Thaksin be put on trial for murder after orchestrating police to wage a gruesome "war on drugs," during which more than 2,500 people perished, the lawyer replied:

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"He is not involved. It is just allegations. They have to prove it. But he is innocent."

The arrogant, Texas-educated prime minister claimed during his 2003-04 anti-drug campaign that most of the killings were committed by rival criminals silencing informants, liquidating the competition and covering their tracks.

International and Thai human rights groups, however, said police shot dead many of the victims -- including innocent people -- in blatant extrajudicial killings, to satisfy Mr. Thaksin's monthly quotas against illicit manufacturing, smuggling, selling and consumption of methamphetamines, Ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

"Drug dealers and traffickers are heartless and wicked," Mr. Thaksin declared in October 2004.

"All of them must be sent to meet the Guardian of Hell, so that there will not be any drugs in the country."

In an interview on Thursday (November 2) at a Bangkok hotel, Mr. Noppadol described his role as "a lawyer for the former prime minister and his family," including Mr. Thaksin's wealthy, politically savvy wife, Pojaman, and their three children.

Mr. Thaksin's son and daughters received huge cash, stock and property transfers during the prime minister's five years in power, apparently to deflect allegations that Mr. Thaksin was too monopolistic, or was profiting directly from conflict-of-interest deals and tax loopholes.

Asked what charges he expected to defend Mr. Thaksin's children against, the lawyer replied: "Tax issues, the share sale issue."

He was referring to the disastrous January sale by the prime minister's family of its shares in the Shin Corp. telecommunications empire, to the Singapore government's Temasek Holdings.

The Thaksin family apparently did not pay capital gains tax on the 1.9 billion U.S. dollars they pocketed, prompting huge street protests in Bangkok and ripening public opinion in favor of the bloodless military coup, unleashed by a monarchist faction of Thailand's U.S.-trained army.

Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin -- who was about lose his job because Mr. Thaksin opposed him -- led the coup.

Gen. Sonthi cited worries about the fate of constitutional King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and massive corruption, but has failed to produce evidence six weeks after the putsch, frustrating many of the coup's cheerleaders within Thailand's media, business community, social welfare organizations, and wealthy elite.

Gen. Sonthi and other military officers clamped Thailand under martial law, ripped up the constitution, forbade political activity, and muffled free speech, while ignoring Mr. Thaksin's triple election victories which were boosted by 16 million voters who respected his pro-poor policies.

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Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich, who has reported news from Asia for the past 28 years, and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent

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