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Political ally says Thai ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile Feb. 14

Political ally says Thai ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile Feb. 14

Thailand's former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by a military coup last year, will return from exile Feb. 14, a political ally said.
Chalerm Yoobamrung, a parliamentary candidate of the People's Power Party, made the announcement Friday at a campaign rally ahead of Sunday's general election. The party is led by Thaksin's loyalists, who regrouped after his Thai Rak Thai Party was disbanded by a court order earlier this year.
Chalerm said Thaksin, who was abroad at the time of the Sept. 19, 2006 coup, had informed him of the date in a Thursday night telephone call.
Thaksin, who has been living in Britain since the coup and is visiting Hong Kong, could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to his spokesman in London, the former leader has said he is likely to return in February but hasn't fixed a date. Lord Tim Bell, chairman of the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, added that Thaksin would not say anything publicly until after the election.
Campaigning finished Friday for Thailand's first general election since last year's coup, with the People's Power Party expected to come out on top in the Sunday polls.
Barring last-minute disqualifications, about 5,000 candidates from 39 political parties will be contending for 480 seats in parliament's lower house.
Opinion polls indicate the People's Power Party, which identifies itself closely with Thaksin, is expected to garner the most seats but fall short of a majority.
The Democrat Party, the country's oldest, is expected to finish second.
It seems certain that one or the other will have to form a coalition with other smaller parties, which would have significant leverage over who would become prime minister _ either People's Power Party head Samak Sundaravej, 72, or Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, 43, though a third party compromise choice is also possible.
The election, supposed to restore democracy after the coup, comes after almost two years of intense political instability that began with popular demonstrations demanding that Thaksin step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. The protest culminated in the coup.
Thaksin, whose Thai Rak Thai took power in 2001, was returned to government in 2005 by a landslide victory that gave it an unprecedented absolute parliamentary majority.
After the coup, Thaksin, 58, was legally barred from office for five years and charged with a slew of corruption-related crimes.
For the first few months after he was toppled, he was warned by the military to stay away on the grounds that he could endanger public stability. As legal cases proceeded against him, he found it in his own self-interest to keep away.
Thaksin has said repeatedly he has retired from politics.
In recent months, he has said he could not find justice until there is an elected government, and would return only after polls were held.
Chalerm said Thaksin had told him he would not return immediately after the election, but only after a new government was formed, so he would not be accused of interfering with the process.
Thaksin could expect a more sympathetic hearing with his allies in power, and he in turn could help consolidate their position, becoming again a figure his followers could rally around.
Democrat leader Abhisit said earlier Friday he would let Thaksin come back "so justice will prevail."


Updated : 2021-04-12 15:23 GMT+08:00