Source AP ©

Thaksin Shinawatra to be arrested despite self-imposed exile

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 Thursday.

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 Tuesday he was looking into returning in coming months, the AP reports.

Thaksin started his career in the Thai police, and later became a successful entrepreneur, establishing Shin Corporation and Advanced Info Service, the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand. He became one of the richest people in Thailand prior to entering politics, although he and his family later sold their shares in Shin Corporation. Thaksin entered politics by joining the Phalang Dharma Party in 1994, and later founded the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in 1998. After a landslide election victory in 2001, he became Prime Minister of Thailand.

Thaksin's distinctive economic, public health, education, energy, drugs and international relations policies made him the first elected Prime Minister in Thai history to complete his term in office, and helped him win a landslide re-election in 2005. His main support base was the rural poor in the north, northeast east and central part of Thailand.

However, his government was frequently challenged with allegations of corruption, dictatorship, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting undiplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. He was accused of lèse-majesté, selling domestic assets to international investors, and religious desecration.

Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, have also expressed concern at Thaksin's human rights record. Human Rights Watch described Thaksin as "a human rights abuser of the worst kind", alleging that he participated in media suppression and presided over extrajudicial killings. A series of attacks in 2005 and 2006 by Sondhi Limthongkul and his People's Alliance for Democracy destroyed Thaksin's name and reputation. He was also subject to several "purported" assassination attempts.

On 19 September 2006, a military junta known as the Council for National Security (CNS) overthrew his government in a bloodless coup while he was attending a UN meeting in New York. His diplomatic passport was revoked after the CNS accused him of engaging in political activities abroad and Thai embassies were ordered not to facilitate his travels. All pro-Thaksin websites were also temporarily blocked or shut down.

The Thai court dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party and banned Thaksin and the TRT's executive team of 111 politicians from engaging in politics for 5 years. After the coup, the government established an Assets Examination Committee (AEC) that froze some of his bank accounts, claiming that he had become unusually wealthy during his term in government, and demanded that he return to Thailand to face charges of corruption. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont guaranteed his safety.

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