Thaksin returns 'to clear his name'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 February, 2008, 12:00am

Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned home yesterday from 17 months in self-imposed exile, vowing to clear his name from criminal charges but stay out of politics.

After arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport from Hong Kong amid tight security, Thaksin offered a traditional Thai bow to thousands of chanting supporters. Some wept with joy at the first sight of the billionaire telecoms tycoon they hope will soon be back in power.

'Upon my return to Thailand, I wish to live quietly and peacefully with my family... I don't want to get involved with politics,' he said in a statement that was treated with scepticism by supporters and opponents.

'We can certainly have various opinions on various things, but we shall not be divided,' he said. 'It will be best for all of us to reduce our ego, and our prejudice.'

Facing repeated questions over the strength of his pledge to avoid politics now his friends were back in power, Thaksin's spokesmen later insisted that he could be trusted

Thaksin headed straight to the Supreme Court and Prosecutor's Office - his first moves to face corruption charges relating to his five-year rule that ended when military generals ousted him in September 2006. He was released on 9 million baht (HK$2.3 million) bail. Thaksin, who is still banned from politics, is free to leave the country with court permission.

He said he only felt comfortable returning home once Thailand had returned to a 'normal democracy' - a reference to last December's election landslide by his political proxy, the People Power Party. Reports of a possible plot by military-trained snipers to assassinate him on his return sparked an extensive security operation.

While saying he would success- fully argue his case against 'all wrongful accusations', Thaksin confirmed he had been in touch with many senior military officials, police and bureaucrats, some who served in the junta that replaced him. 'My family and I have no desire to seek revenge against anyone,' he said.

Earlier, on arrival at Chek Lap Kok airport, Thaksin said he had enjoyed the long spells he spent in Hong Kong during his exile and would probably return in three months.

'Thank you Hong Kong for having me here, so warmly. Hong Kong is a destination where I would always like to come.' He spent several months in the city's top hotels, discretely plotting - and eventually celebrating - with Thai political backers and contracted US lobbyists.

Despite owning a large mansion in Bangkok, Thaksin and his family and entourage have booked three floors for the next month in The Peninsula hotel overlooking the Chao Phraya River. He is expected to travel soon to the northern city of Chiang Mai, his birthplace and political heartland.

Additional reporting by Fox Yi Hu