- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

BANGKOK — Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is ready to return from self-exile once martial law is lifted and stand trial on charges of corruption and murder, his attorney said in an interview.

“No direct allegations have been made against the former prime minister or his wife. The matters are being investigated,” said Mr. Thaksin’s recently appointed attorney, Noppadol Pattama.

“He hasn’t fixed the date of return. He will consider coming back when the time is right, when the situation has returned to normality and the situation is calm.”

Asked whether Mr. Thaksin will return when martial law is lifted, Mr. Noppadol replied: “Most likely, most likely. He is a Thai national. His home is here. It is very natural for Thai people to want to come back to Thailand.”

The disgraced prime minister was in New York attending a session of the United Nations General Assembly when overthrown by a coup on Sept. 19 and has since hunkered down in London. Mr. Noppadol said Mr. Thaksin was in Beijing last week visiting friends and playing golf.

“He has no immunity. And he is prepared to come to court, no problem,” Mr. Thaksin’s attorney said. “He is being prepared to answer all the charges the best he can.”

Asked about public demands that Mr. Thaksin be put on trial on accusations that he orchestrated a gruesome “war on drugs” in which more than 2,500 people died, the attorney replied: “He is not involved. It is just allegations. They have to prove it. But he is innocent.”

The U.S.-educated prime minister said during his 2003-04 anti-drug campaign that most of the killings were committed by criminals silencing informants, liquidating the competition and covering their tracks.

International and Thai human rights groups, however, said police fatally shot many of the victims, including innocent people, in order to meet monthly quotas set by Mr. Thaksin for the reduction of drug use.

“Drug dealers and traffickers are heartless and wicked,” Mr. Thaksin said in October 2004. “All of them must be sent to meet the guardian of hell, so that there will not be any drugs in the country.”

In an interview on Thursday at a Bangkok hotel, Mr. Noppadol said he represented the former prime minister and his family, including Mr. Thaksin’s politically savvy wife, Pojaman, and their three children.

Mr. Thaksin’s son and daughters received huge cash, stock and property transfers during the prime minister’s five years in power, apparently to deflect complaints that Mr. Thaksin was profiting directly from conflict-of-interest deals and tax loopholes.

The coup that ousted the prime minister was led by Army commander in chief Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who said he was acting because of massive government corruption and worries about the welfare of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Six weeks later, however, Gen. Sonthi has failed to produce any evidence, frustrating many of the coup’s supporters in the press, business community, social welfare organizations and wealthy elite.

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