06/21/2007, 00.00
THAILAND
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Thaksin charged with corruption in Supreme Court

For the first time since last September’s military coup, prosecutors claim they have enough evidence to charge the former prime minister. Public opinion had been waiting a long time for this moment. Government announces November elections if draft constitution is adopted in August.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prosecutors in Thailand have filed corruption charges in the Supreme Court against Thaksin Shinawatra in the first formal steps taken against the former prime minister ousted last September in a military coup.

Since they took power the military have been under pressure by public opinion to show the evidence of Thaksin’s corruption and abuses of power. They had used those claims to justify their bloodless coup.

Prosecutors now say they have all the necessary evidence to press charges against the former leader.

At the same time, Thaksin's successor Surayud Chulanont yesterday said that polls could be held on November 25 if the draft of the new constitution is passed in a national referendum on August 19. December 16 or 23 had previously been proposed.

The charges against Thaksin and his wife Khunying Pojaman are linked to a 2003 deal involving public lands.

The former premier who is also a telecommunications magnate claims the legal actions against him are part of a political scheme.

Prosecutors maintain however that the couple violated the country’s anti-corruption laws. They say he used his office to enable his wife to buy a piece of land at a very low price. As part of the probe, the Attorney-General's Office recommended that officials seize the 5.16 hectare plot of land, valued at US$ 23.7 million.

Thai police this week ordered Thaksin and his wife to return to Bangkok or face a warrant for their arrest over corruption allegations.

Since he was ousted in September 2006, Thaksin has not been back to Thailand, but has been living in London and travelling around Asia.

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