Self-exiled ex-PM Thaksin seeks return to Thailand by July

Self-exiled ex-PM Thaksin seeks return to Thailand by July

BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand’s billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday he wants to return from self-exile before his 26 July birthday, in a tweet he posted just days before a general election.

The 73-year-old policeman turned telecoms tycoon, twice elected premier but ousted by a military coup in 2006, said he was ready to face justice after spending the past 15 years outside the kingdom to avoid corruption charges he long maintained were politically motivated.

The opposition Pheu Thai party, fronted by Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn, is ahead in most opinion polls for Sunday’s vote, increasing speculation that he may finally make good on repeated promises to return to Thailand.

“I have decided to return home to raise my grandchildren in July, before my birthday,” he wrote on his @ThaksinLive Twitter account.

Paetongtarn gave birth to her second child — his seventh grandchild — on May 1.

“I have lived away from my family for almost 17 years. I am an old man,” he tweeted.

Thaksin is still idolised by millions of poor rural Thais who benefited from his welfare policies but were loathed by the kingdom’s royalist-military elite.

Parties linked to Thaksin have won most seats at every Thai election since 2001 but lost two prime ministers to military coups and another to a court ruling.

Thaksin was convicted in absentia on corruption charges — and faces numerous other cases as well — but on Tuesday said he was ready to face the courts.

“I will enter the legal process and the day I return, the country will still be under the caretaker government of General Prayut,” he tweeted.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the former army chief who ousted Thaksin’s sister Yingluck as premier to seize power in a 2014 coup, will formally remain in charge of the country until a new leader is sworn in, most likely in August.

— AFP

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