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Former Thai PM Thaksin to remain in exile

Ousted Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra said on Monday he would not return to Thailand to face corruption charges blaming political interference in the justice system. He is currently exiled in Britain.

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BANGKOK, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Former Thai Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra skipped bail on Monday and went into exile,
alleging that political enemies who removed him in a 2006 coup
were meddling in the courts to "finish off" him and his family.


In a hand-written statement faxed to news outlets from his
refuge in London, Thaksin, 59, apologised to the Supreme Court
for failing to appear in a corruption case involving him and
his wife, Potjaman.


"I must apologise again for deciding to come to live in
England. If I am fortunate enough, I will return and die on
Thai soil, just like other Thais," he said.


His decision to flee rather than fight a slew of corruption
charges logged since the coup helped pushed the stock market 3
percent higher on hopes political temperatures might cool down
after three years of turmoil.


Analysts said it could mean the government that came to
power in December elections on the back of Thaksin's rural
popularity might get a break from round-the-clock, anti-Thaksin
street protests and be able to concentrate on the economy.


However, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the
motley group of royalists, businessmen and Bangkok
middle-classes united by their hatred of Thaksin, said it was
not going to give up until the six-party coalition fell.


"Thaksin's exile is another victory for us, but our
ultimate goal is to finish off the Thaksin regime by kicking
out his puppet government," spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan told
Reuters.


"VERY ANGRY"


Thaksin said his decision to leave Thailand less than six
months after returning from post-coup exile had been forced on
him because his foes were meddling in the judicial system "to
finish off myself and my family".


"These are my political enemies. They don't care about the
rule of law, facts or internationally recognised due process,"
he said.


Potjaman was sentenced last month to three years in jail
for tax fraud, but freed on bail pending an appeal. The
couple's departure for China with a large amount of luggage
immediately after the verdict sparked rumours they were going
into exile.


Analysts say it was probably the prospect of his wife doing
jail time that forced Thaksin, who had been on bail of 8
million baht ($237,000), to leave the country.


His parting swipe at the judicial system in defiance of
rigidly enforced contempt of court laws means he will not be
able to return for a long time, analysts said.


"He has defamed the court, and so he's gone for good,"
Thaksin biographer and political analyst Chris Baker said.


"He is quite an emotional fellow, and he has lashed out
very often in the past," he added. "My guess is that over the
last few weeks and months, he's splashed out a lot of money to
try and get himself out of this, and it's failed, and he's very
angry."


His criticism of the courts is also likely to jeopardise
any bid to get his hands on more than $2 billion in Thai bank
accounts frozen since the coup, which was widely believed to
have been orchestrated by Thailand's royalist, military elite.


Thaksin had been due to return to Bangkok from the Olympic
Games with his wife on Sunday evening but instead quietly took
a plane to London the previous day, an aide said.


He owns UK football club Manchester City and has a property
in a swish west London district. At least one of his adult
children is studying in London.


After his removal by the army in 2006, mainly on the
pretext of "rampant corruption", Thaksin spent much of his time
in the British capital, as well as in Hong Kong and Beijing.


The army-appointed interim government looked into trying to
extradite him under a bilateral criminal treaty signed with
Britain in 1911, but never lodged a formal request.

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