Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thaksin, wife fail to return for today's court hearing

POST REPORTERS

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has not returned to Thailand as scheduled and will hold a press conference in London today to explain why he did not come back to fight the court cases against him, his close associates confirmed last night.

Mr Thaksin and his wife Khunying Potjaman were not on board their scheduled flight from Beijing which arrived in Bangkok last night, bolstering speculation they might head into political exile.

Pracha Prasopdee, a Samut Prakan MP of the People Power party, said he had information Mr Thaksin would be in London today and would hold a press conference there to explain why he would not return to Thailand.

A former executive of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party who has influence in the PPP also confirmed that Mr Thaksin had travelled to London from Beijing. He asked not to be named.

The couple are due to report to the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions this morning.

They are on trial over the Ratchadaphisek land deal.

Two other cases against Mr Thaksin _ the digit lottery case and the Exim Bank soft loan to Burma _ are pending in the same court.

Five other cases against Mr Thaksin and his cronies are with the Office of the Attorney-General.

The couple had booked their return on flight TG 615 which departed Beijing at 5.35pm (local time) and arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport about 10.45 pm yesterday.

According to Thai Airways, Mr Thaksin and Khunying Potjaman did not board the plane.

Mr Thaksin and his wife were in Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics on Friday.

Kriangkrai Juengjaturapit, chief judge of the Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions, said if the couple fail to turn up today their lawyers must offer an explanation to the court.

''If there are no reasons given, or the reasons are not good enough, the court will consider that they have the intention of fleeing and they will face arrest warrants,'' Mr Kriangkrai said.

The court would then continue the trial of the couple in absentia until a verdict is given, he said.

If the couple fail to appear on the day the verdict is given, the reading of the verdict will be adjourned for 30 days.

After that, if the two still do not show up, the court will read out the verdict in their absence, Mr Kriangkrai said.

''Until now, there have been no reports that Thaksin and Khunying Potjaman will report to the court, or that they will lodge a request to go overseas,'' Mr Kriangkrai said.

Mr Thaksin's lawyer, Kamnuan Chalopathum, said he was not aware of the cancellation of their return flight to Thailand.

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