Thaksin Shinawatra failed to turn up at his scheduled court appearance in Bangkok today and the Supreme Court in Thailand has now issued a warrant for his arrest.Thaksin’s wife, Potjaman, was recently found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to three years in prison. Potjaman appealed the verdict and is free on bail, but it is believed by many local analysts that the outcome of his wife’s trial came as a shock to Thaksin. With political allies in charge of the country and still wielding enormous political influence himself, Thaksin may have thought he and his family were untouchable. The guilty verdict for his wife must surely have changed that.
Thaksin had time to think about his future during his visit to Beijing where he attended the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The former Thai leader and his wife had been granted bail and given dispensation to leave Thailand to attend the event in China. However, instead of returning to Bangkok, the Thaksin’s flew to London where the former Thai leader issued a statement about his decision not to return to Thailand. He blamed his political enemies in the statement claiming, ‘They don’t care about the rule of law, facts or internationally recognized due process.’ The same accusations have been levelled against Thaksin in the past, but he is still protesting his innocence albeit from his English safe haven.
Thaksin has extensive business interests in the United Kingdom including his high-profile involvement with Premiership football club, Manchester City. He also owns a number of properties in England and his daughter attends university in London. He should have no problems in legally remaining in Britain even if the Thai authorities seek to extradite him. It appears that the canny Thaksin already has all the bases covered when he hinted that his life could be in danger if he returned to Thailand. He probably won’t need to play the political asylum card, but it’s up his sleeve just in case. The man deposed by a military coup said that he will remain in the United Kingdom ‘where democracy is more important’. Thaksin acknowledged his loyalty to Thailand by saying, ‘If I am fortunate enough, I will return and die on Thai soil, just like other Thais.’