Fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters vowed yesterday to fight a court order seizing more than half of his US$2.3 billion fortune.
Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006, rejected calls from the ruling party to leave the political stage and dismissed their arguments that a compromise had been struck by returning a portion of his frozen funds.
His supporters, dubbed the “Red Shirts” for their colorful garb, said they would press on with their plans for mass rallies in Bangkok in the middle of next month, dimming hopes that the verdict could ease Thailand’s political turmoil.
“I’m not going to let anyone keep me down. I will fight in every way that I can. I will not chicken out,” Thaksin wrote on his Twitter page yesterday.
In a separate statement issued from Dubai, where he is living to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption at home, the tycoon urged the Red Shirts to fight on and said he would “keep fighting for democracy and justice.”
The ruling Democrat party said Thaksin should accept the verdict and stop egging on his supporters, who have called for fresh elections and the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
“Every side should accept the verdict. We want to ask Thaksin to quit the political movement, because if he quits, the Red Shirts will quit too,” Theptai Seanapong, a party spokesman, told reporters.
Abhisit, the Oxford-educated prime minister accused by the Red Shirts of leading an elitist, military-backed government since he took power in December 2008, rejected Thaksin’s accusation that his family’s money had been “stolen.”
“I don’t think we’re stealing anyone’s money. The money now belongs to the country ... I would like everybody to respect the verdict,” Abhisit told reporters.
The Supreme Court found on Friday that Thaksin had abused his power as prime minister to boost his business interests and ruled to seize 46 billion baht (US$1.4 billion) from the 2006 sale of shares in his telecoms firm.
In a seven-hour verdict broadcast on national television and radio, judges said the twice-elected former leader could hold on to the money he had accumulated before taking office in 2001.
Thaksin denies using his position as head of government to benefit Shin Corp and that he illegally hid his ownership of the shares, among other graft charges.
His lawyers yesterday said they would consider submitting fresh evidence to the Supreme Court within 30 days and would mull an appeal to the World Court.
The Red Shirts have said they will gather from March 12 in Bangkok to topple the government, leading many to fear a repeat of scenes last April when riots at an Asian summit and in the capital left two people dead and scores injured.
“I would like to tell the Democrats: Don’t be so jubilant about the misfortune of a man who has been treated unjustly,” Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan said yesterday. “Thai society will not accept those who tread on the unfortunate.”
Authorities deployed up to 35,000 extra security forces across the country for the verdict, but there was no sign of trouble from the Red Shirts, who have insisted they will continue their movement without violence.