A Thai judge issued arrest warrants yesterday for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife for failing to appear at their trial on corruption charges, compounding the former leader's woes.
Supreme Court Judge Tonglor Choam-ngam said the court "has reason to believe that they are evading prosecution" in connection with a case against them involving the sale of a prime piece of Bangkok real estate in 2003 when Thaksin was prime minister.
The warrants accuse the two of being fugitives for failing to show up for the first formal session in the trial, one of several cases involving alleged wrongdoing by Thaksin.
Thaksin was overthrown in a coup d'etat in September last year after demonstrations calling for him to step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. Since then, those who toppled him has launched several investigations into alleged corruption on his part, and have frozen millions of dollars of his family's wealth.
He has been living in exile in Britain since his ouster while his wife Pojamarn has been traveling in and out of Thailand. According to their lawyer, Pichit Chaenban, both are currently in London.
"I am aware of the decision in Thailand," Thaksin said in an e-mailed statement to the press released by a public relations company. "I shall consult with my legal advisers and make an announcement in due course."
Tonglor said the next session of the trial would be held on Sept. 25.
A Thai arrest warrant has no power outside the country, and Thaksin has shown no sign he plans to return to face trial before elections, scheduled for December.
"Since he is abroad, we are left with no choice but to ask for extradition at some point but it's too soon to tell when that would be," a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said.