Deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday he wanted to return to Thailand in February, as he called for reconciliation with the military following weekend elections.
Thaksin, who was deposed by a military coup 15 months ago, also insisted he did not want to return to politics following the polls, which saw his allies in the People Power Party (PPP) emerge as the biggest winner in the new parliament.
"I will go back from February onwards," Thaksin told reporters in Hong Kong, in his first reaction to the election result. He declined to give a precise date, but said he hoped it would happen by April at the latest.
"I want to go back when my life can be peaceful in Thailand, as a normal citizen," said the billionaire former telecoms tycoon, who has been living in exile mainly in London since the military seized power.
Thaksin struck a conciliatory tone, calling for national reconciliation and thanking the military junta for allowing the elections to take place.
"I would like to congratulate them [voters] for bringing back democracy for Thailand," he said. "This should bring reconciliation efforts by everybody."
"I urge every party concerned to forget the past and look forward to a bright and prosperous future for Thailand," he added.
Thaksin, who was in contact with PPP leaders throughout the election, said repeatedly that he wanted to quit politics when he returned to Thailand.
The junta dissolved Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai and in May a military-appointed tribunal banned him and 111 senior party members from politics for five years.
"I am quitting politics, I am not going back to politics. I will not take any political position except when they want any ideas," said Thaskin, who is also the owner of Premier League soccer club Manchester City.
However, he later indicated that he could change his mind if the situation in Thailand were to change.
"I have no wish to go back to politics until I feel safe and then I will have to assess the situation," he said.
PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, who is likely to be the next prime minister, campaigned to bring Thaksin back to Thailand and there has been speculation a new PPP-led government would lift the ban on his involvement in politics.
Unofficial returns from Sunday's election gave the PPP 232 of the 480 seats in parliament, just short of the absolute majority needed to govern alone.
Party leaders have been trying to build a ruling coalition with smaller parties and have confidently predicted they will be forming the next government.
"PPP needs to secure at least 280 seats to make a strong coalition government," said Ukrist Pathmanand, a professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
Yongyut Tiyapairat, the party's deputy leader, said yesterday that a PPP-led coalition would hold at least 280 of the 480 seats in parliament, but declined to give further details.
"Government stability is crucial, and it's better that I do not disclose the name of parties until the Election Commission completes its process," Yongyut told reporters in Bangkok.
The Democrat Party, which came in second with 165 seats, has already refused to join a PPP-led government.
The remaining 83 seats were split among five smaller political parties.
The English-daily Bangkok Post, quoting a PPP source, said yesterday the pro-Thaksin party had convinced three parties -- Chart Thai, Puea Pandin and Matchima Party -- into helping it form a government.
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