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Thailand's ex-premier seeks asylum in Britain
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Thailand's ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday issued a statement from London to announce through Thai TVs his decision to seek political asylum in Britain, saying that he and his family were unfairly treated under the Thai justice system now controlled by his political opponents.

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (R) and his wife Potjaman Shinawatra is seen at the criminal court in Bangkok in this July 31, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters file Photo)

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (R) and his wife Potjaman Shinawatra is seen at the criminal court in Bangkok in this July 31, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters file Photo)

The statement, hand-written and signed by the ex-premier, was faxed to and read on Thai TV stations around Monday noon, after he and his wife Pojaman failed to return to Bangkok on Sunday as scheduled to report to a Monday court hearing for corruption charges.

Thaksin said in the statement that he had to seek asylum in England because he and his family did not receive justice in Thai courts, which had been interfered by his political opponents.

Thaksin said he and his family had been unfairly treated ever since the Sept. 19, 2006 military coup ousted his administration when he was attending the United Nations general assembly in New York.

He said his political enemies have tried everything to drive him out of Thailand's political arena, and even attempted to assassinate him.

Thaksin and his wife Pojaman had been expected to fly back to Bangkok on Sunday from Beijing, where the couple attended the Olympics 2008 opening ceremony on Aug. 8.

However, they were found to have failed boarding the scheduled Thai Airways International Flight 615, which arrived on time at Bangkok at 9:45 PM (1445 GMT) on Sunday, sending rumors run wild in Thailand that the ex-premier has fled to Britain, where he owns an luxurious apartment in London and the Manchester City football club, to seek asylum.

His three children had reportedly flown ahead to Britain to unite with them.

Thaksin and Pojaman were expected to testify as co-defendants at a hearing in the Supreme Court in Bangkok to face charges of abuse of power in a 2003 land purchase case, in which the ex-premier was accused of unlawfully using his influence to help his wife get the deal in a government auction at a much-lower-than-market price.

Among dozens of corruption and malfeasance charges and accusations, Thaksin faced two other indictments -- one regarding a government lottery scheme and one about a state loan to Myanmar, both pending trial in the Supreme Court.

His wife Pojaman was sentenced to a three-year jail term by the Criminal Court on July 31 after the court found her guilty of tax evasion involving 546 million baht (some 15.8 million U.S. dollars)in a shares-transfer deal. Pojaman was released later on bail and said she will appeal.

The couple has denied all charges.

The now defunct Assets Examination Committee (AEC), which was established by the junta after the coup to investigate corruption accusations related to Thaksin and his cabinet members, have frozen some 69 billion baht (about US$2 billion) of Thaksin's family assets.

(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2008)

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