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Thai court issues warrant for Thaksin on terrorism charges

A Thai court has approved an arrest warrant for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges following government accusations that he incited unrest and financed the mass protests by opposition "Red Shirts" in Bangkok over recent weeks.

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AFP - A Thai court on Tuesday approved an arrest warrant for fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges in connection with recent deadly street protests, an official said.

The government has accused Thaksin of inciting unrest and bankrolling the mass protests in Bangkok by the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement.

"A court found there was enough evidence so it issued an arrest warrant," Naras Savestanan, deputy chief of the Department of Special Investigation, told reporters after the closed-door hearing at the Criminal Court.

"Now it's the attorney general's job to enforce the warrant," he said.

The DSI, tasked with investigating violence surrounding the anti-government demonstrations, said on Monday it had submitted evidence "which show Thaksin's coordinating role" in the unrest.

The street rallies, which were broken up last week by the army, descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead since mid-March.

The tycoon-turned-premier was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a jail term for corruption. Many Red Shirts seek the return of the former premier.

The government has exerted pressure on countries he has visited and moved to freeze his finances.

Terrorism charges carry a maximum penalty of death in Thailand, but the warrant appears aimed at boosting attempts to extradite Thaksin, who has found sanctuary in several countries.

Thaksin is idolised by many of the "Red Shirt" protesters for his populist policies, including cheap healthcare and village funds, but Thailand's elite see him as corrupt, authoritarian and a threat to the revered monarchy.

Thaksin last week denied he had undermined peace talks between protesters and the government, saying he was not the "mastermind of the terrorists".

His legal adviser, Pichit Cheunban, said Tuesday he would inform the ex-premier of the court verdict and "discuss what to do next."

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