Thai Supreme Court to try former premier for corruption charges


Bangkok : Thailand's Supreme Court Tuesday said it would proceed with a trial against deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Potjaman for alleged involvement in a corrupt land deal in 2003.

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The court has scheduled the first hearing for August 14, and ordered prosecutors to send a subpoena to the two defendants, both of whom are outside the country, within three days.

"This is just an admission of the case for trial," said Thaksin's lead lawyer Noppodon Pattama. "He is still presumed innocent."

Investigators have accused Potjaman of purchasing a plot of land from the state at an undervalued price in 2003 when Thaksin was prime minister.

Thaksin, who has been residing in London since he was overthrown by a military coup on September 19 but is currently visiting Hong Kong, has vowed not to return to Thailand to face charges on the grounds that he cannot expect justice under the current political climate.

Thai authorities are expected to issue an arrest warrant for Thaksin and Potjaman, who is living in Singapore, and initiate extradition procedures if they fail to attend the initial hearings on August 14.

"If my client doesn't come on the appointed day they will issue an arrest warrant," said Noppodon, who confirmed that Thaksin had no intention of returning to Thailand soon. "That is his current position," said the lawyer in a telephone interview with DPA.

Thaksin, a former policeman and billionaire telecommunications tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, is in the final phases of purchasing the Manchester City football club in London.

Both England and Singapore are well-known for their laws which make it difficult for nations to extradite their citizens wanted on corruption charges at home.