Thailand's ousted prime minister has resigned as leader of the party he founded, funded and led to three election victories in the wake of the country's coup.
Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed in a bloodless Sept. 19 takeover by a military council, quit the Thai Rak Thai party in a letter faxedTuesday from London, after more than 200 of his party colleagues deserted the organization he created in 1998.
"I have to resign because of the current atmosphere and to protect the future of the party," Thaksin said in the three-page handwritten letter, his first detailed statement since the military council ousted him, accusing him of corruption and insulting the country's revered monarchy.
In the letter, which was distributed at Thai Rak Thai's headquarters, Thaksin defended himself against accusations of wrongdoing and described his departure as a necessary sacrifice.
"I have ... decided to make a sacrifice by resigning from the leadership of the Thai Rak Thai party effective starting now," said Thaksin. "I have to apologize to party members and people who do not want me to resign. I want to stress that it is necessary."
Thaksin, who was in New York at the time of the coup, has been advised by the military not to return to Thailand for the time being and faces several corruption probes.
His Thai Rak Thai _ Thais Love Thais _ party won a sweeping general election victory on its first outing in 2001, and attained an absolute majority in the House of Representatives in the next general election in 2005. The party's stunning growth was largely financed by Thaksin's personal fortune, earned in the telecommunications sector.
Earlier this year his party won a third election, but the poll was boycotted by the parliamentary opposition and later nullified by the courts for being undemocratic.
"The legacy of the Thai Rak Thai party is over," a former deputy party leader, Pongpol Adireksan, said Tuesday. "The Thai Rak Thai has died along with Thaksin Shinawatra."
Pongpol said an executive order issued by the ruling military council Saturday "clearly showed that it aims to dissolve the Thai Rak Thai and shut the door for Thaksin to return to politics." He added that more than 200 party members had resigned since then.
Somsak Pritsanananthakul, the deputy leader of the Chat Thai Party _ an opposition group in the last Parliament _ said more than 10 ex-Thai Rak Thai members had contacted his party to ask about joining.
"The party is not an institution. It has been built from money and power," he said "The party that grows from money and power but not people's faith does not last long."
Thaksin was accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power that prompted mass anti-government protests earlier this year. Coup leaders said they intervened to avoid imminent, violent clashes between anti- and pro-Thaksin forces. Surayud Chulanont, a former army commander, on Sunday become interim prime minister.
Thaksin's resignation letter defended his record.
"All along I have devoted my time and hard work to the benefit of the nation and the people," he said. "I worked all along in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution."