Thai authorities preparing to seize Thaksin assets


Bangkok : Thai authorities are preparing to seize $2.3 billion in frozen assets belonging to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife, who fled the country last weekend, media reports said Wednesday.

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The foreign ministry is also preparing to cancel Thaksin’s diplomatic passport, the Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag, who is currently visiting Laos, told the TNA that the ministry was prepared to look into revoking Thaksin’s passport as soon as it received an official request from the Supreme Court, which on Monday issued arrest warrants for both the former premier and his wife Pojaman.

The ministry is likewise looking into extradition procedures against Thaksin and Pojaman, who own several property in London and the Manchester City football club. The UK and Thailand signed an extradition agreement in 1911.

Thaksin and Pojaman flew to London Sunday from Beijing, where they had been granted special court permission to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Thaksin faces at least four corruption and abuse of power cases during his controversial premiership between 2001 to 2006 while his wife was sentenced to three years in prison on a tax evasion charge July 31.

Thailand’s Supreme Court Monday issued arrest warrants for the former first couple and seized their bail amounting to 13 million baht ($386,900).

With Thaksin and Pojaman now officially in exile, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is preparing to seize their assets in frozen banks accounts amounting to 76 billion baht ($2.3 billion).

Deputy Attorney General Waiyawuth Lortrakul said a proposal to confiscate the Shinawatras’ frozen assets will be forwarded next week to the Supreme Court.

The 76 billion baht in Thai bank accounts were frozen in the course of investigations into Thaksin’s wealth after the Sep 19, 2006, coup that toppled the former premier on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democracy and the monarchy.

Thaksin, a former policeman-turned-telecommunications-tycoon-turned prime minister,
rose to power on a populist platform that won him the backing of Thailand’s rural and urban poor and allowed him unprecedented control over Thailand’s money-fueled political apparatus.

Evidence of corruption and self-enriching policies eventually turned the Bangkok-based middle class and political elite against him, ended in his overthrow by the army in 2006.

Political observers viewed Thaksin’s decision to seek asylum abroad as the end of his political career.

Although he is closely allied to the People Power Party that leads the current government, Thaksin’s political clout has not protected him from the Thai judiciary, which is pressing several cases against the former first couple and has already sentenced his wife to jail.

Thaksin was in self-exile, mostly in London, for more than a year after the Sep 2006 coup and only returned to Thailand in February to face several corruption charges.