Arrest warrant ordered for former Thai PM over Red protests

A Thai court issued orders to arrest former PM Thaksin on "terrorism" charges in connection with protests over Red Shirts protests.

Arrest warrant ordered for former Thai PM over Red protests

A Thai court issued orders on Tuesday to arrest former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on "terrorism" charges in connection with protests over the past two months that were the worst in the country's modern history.

Armed with the arrest warrant, Thai prosecutors and the Foreign Ministry will launch a global hunt for the former PM, a top government official said.

Thaksin was last believed to be in France for the Cannes film festival, but he keeps his location secret.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government has accused Thaksin of inciting unrest and bankrolling the mass rallies by the opposition "Red Shirts", many of whom seek the return of the former telecoms tycoon.

"A court found there was enough evidence so it issued an arrest warrant," Naras Savestanan, deputy chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), told reporters after the closed-door hearing at the Criminal Court.

"Now it's the attorney general's job to enforce the warrant," he said.

If he is convicted of terrorism, he can be sentenced to death.

"Mask off junta"

The red shirt protesters have demanded that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva quit and call new elections, saying they have been disenfranchised by a Bangkok elite supported by the military. They mostly support Thaksin, who was prime minister until 2006 when he was ousted in a coup.

Thaksin, through his lawyer, denied the terrorism charges.

"Today, the mask is off the junta in Thailand," London-based lawyer Robert Amsterdam said in a statement on behalf of Thaksin.

"Lacking legitimacy and fearing being held to account for the brutal murder of their countrymen, the military-backed Abhisit regime has perverted justice through the laying of a charge that violates logic, law and any claim of hopes for reconciliation."

If found guilty, Thaksin could in theory face the death penalty, but the warrant appears aimed at boosting attempts to extradite Thaksin, who has found sanctuary in several countries.

"Curfew for more days"

Bangkok, a city of 15 million, was operating as usual on Tuesday, but the government said a night curfew would stay in force until May 29, over concerns that some remnants of the hardcore protesters could launch more attacks.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the curfew, which will be in force between midnight and 4 a.m. in the capital and 23 provinces, was necessary to prevent more unrest, but would not be in place for seven days, as was announced on Monday.

"We have cut the timeframe from seven to four days because we want to limit the impact on the public," Suthep told reporters.

At least 85 people were killed in Bangkok and more than 1,400 wounded in violence that began in April.

The violence peaked last week when almost 40 buildings were set on fire as the army fired live bullets at thousands of anti-government protesters who had taken over the commercial heart of the city.

Since Thursday, when the red shirt protesters started to withdraw, but they plan to resume their campaign next month.

Thaksin is no stranger to arrest warrants and court cases. He jumped bail and fled abroad in 2008 when he was facing charges of corruption and was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail.

In February, Thailand's top court seized $1.4 billion of his assets, saying it was accrued through abuse of power.


Last Mod: 25 Mayıs 2010, 12:32
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