Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Thaksin may return to politics, former PM's lawyer says

AGENCIES , BANGKOK

Deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now in Beijing, will return home after martial law is lifted and may re-enter politics under a planned new constitution, his lawyer said yesterday.

Noppadon Patama said the ousted telecoms tycoon had flown to China from London, where he has been since the Sept. 19 coup, to "rest and meet friends" and had no immediate plans to return to his homeland.

"He will return to Thailand when it is the right time, when martial law is lifted," Noppadon, a British-educated lawyer, told reporters. "He will consider returning to politics when the constitution is written up."

Earlier yesterday, coup leader and army chief Sonthi Boon-yaratglin, who has made clear Thaksin would not be welcome in Thailand any time soon, said the issue of his return would be in the hands of the interim, army-appointed government.

"If he wants to come back to Thailand he has to contact the government, not the Council for National Security," Sonthi said.

Thailand remains under martial law, although there are few signs of the Council for National Security -- the body formed by the coup leaders who retain the power to fire the government -- enforcing bans on political gatherings and critical reporting.

The government has said many times it will lift martial law "as soon as possible" when "undercurrents" had been cleared.

Sonthi said the army was keeping a close eye on potential groups of Thaksin allies in provinces that might stage rallies against the post-coup government.

"We are following them closely in various provinces where intelligence suggests they may stage protests, but we aren't so concerned," he said.

Thai media said this week that Thaksin planned to meet his successor, Surayud Chulanont, at a Southeast Asian leaders meeting in China, although Surayud and Beijing denied the reports.

Noppadon denied that the former prime minister had attempted to meet Surayud. He said Thaksin had arrived a day after Surayud left.

"He [Thaksin] said the Council For National Security should not be worried that he will return to Thailand in the near future," Nopaddon said. "He loves the country and wants to see an atmosphere of unity and reconciliation."

The coup makers, who have promised to restore democratic rule within a year, accuse Thaksin of widespread corruption, abuse of power and disrespect toward the country's much-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Since booting Thaksin out, Sonthi has admitted that the generals were struggling to come up with solid evidence to back up their claims of "rampant corruption" under his administration.

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