Thai prosecutors yesterday opened their case against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's party on vote fraud charges, a day after the ousted leader broke his media silence on the recent putsch.
Judges began hearing the case against the twice-elected Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party, which governed Thailand until a Sept. 19 military coup ousted Thaksin, its former leader and founder.
It is the first of two hearings that could see the kingdom's biggest political parties dissolved. The case against the opposition Democrat Party begins tomorrow.
There had been speculation that Thaksin might return from self-imposed exile to give evidence, before jitters over political stability prompted the junta to say he would testify by written statement.
But on Monday night, the fallen premier surprised many with his first media interviews since the coup, telling CNN and the Wall Street Journal Asia that he wanted to return to Thailand, but would eschew politics.
"I want to spend my life as a private citizen and I don't want to get involved in politics," Thaksin, 57, told the Wall Street Journal.
"I want to go back to my country, and spend time with my family and help Thai society through charitable activities," he added.
The billionaire businessman also said he had nothing to do with bomb blasts that killed three and injured dozens in the capital on New Year's Eve, which the junta has blamed on his political supporters.
Thaksin appealed for a return to democracy, and warned that the public would not tolerate military rule in the kingdom for long.
"Democracy is in the blood of Thais," he said.
TRT denied the timing of the interviews was planned to coincide with the hearing.
"It is not related to the hearing today, it's different," deputy TRT leader Phongthep Thepkanjana said.
He confirmed that Thaksin, who stepped down as TRT leader a month after the coup, would testify in a written statement.
The allegations of electoral fraud against TRT and the Democrat Party stem from inconclusive snap polls held on April 2, which contributed to the political turmoil that led to the coup.
The election followed months of protests demanding Thaksin's resignation over allegations of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin won the snap poll, but an opposition boycott led the constitutional court to invalidate the results.
TRT has been charged with breaking two laws during the annulled elections: illegally financing fringe groups to contest the election in a bid to boost the polls' credibility, and misusing the supposedly independent election commission.
Charges against the Democrat Party include obstructing campaigning and slandering the TRT. Both parties deny all charges.
POINT-BLANK RANGE: Reporters and camera people from several outlets say police officers in Minneapolis had fired tear gas and rubber bullets directly at them Multiple journalists on the ground in Minnesota said they were teargassed and subject to other attacks by police on Saturday evening, a day after the widely condemned arrest of a CNN reporter live on air. Los Angeles Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who was reporting outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, said she was with a group of about a dozen journalists when the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters on us at point blank range.” “I was saying: ‘Where do we go?’ They did not tell us where to go. They didn’t direct us. They just fired on us,” she said
For nearly a decade, the UN Security Council has been frequently paralyzed by Russia’s obstinacy over the Syrian crisis. Today, however, it is the US-China rivalry that has infected a growing array of issues, according to officials and diplomats. As recently as 2017, an understanding between Washington and Beijing allowed the UN on three occasions — involving separate sets of economic sanctions — to project international unity in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat. Three years later, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a ferocious competition erupt between the UN’s two main contributors, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May
HISTORIC FLIGHT: The astronauts named their capsule ‘Endeavour,’ after the space shuttle on which they both flew, while Elon Musk said he was overcome with emotion Two veteran NASA astronauts headed for the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday after Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Saturday became the first commercial company to launch a rocket carrying humans into orbit, ushering in a new era in space travel. SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard blasted off flawlessly in a cloud of bright orange flames and smoke from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a 19-hour voyage to the space station. “Let’s light this candle,” Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22pm from NASA’s
INDIA Pride to be preserved The nation would not let its “pride be hurt” in its latest border flare-ups with China, but is determined to settle the dispute through talks, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh said in a television interview late on Saturday. “Situations arise with China. It has happened before,” Singh said, adding that the government was striving to make sure “tension does not escalate.” The government has turned down US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, he said. IRAN Speaker says talks futile Newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf yesterday said that any negotiations with the US would be “futile.” The nation’s