- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BANGKOK | A Thai court issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on terrorism charges, accusing the fugitive former leader of fomenting two months of unrest in Bangkok that left 88 people dead.

If found guilty of the charges, he could face the death penalty.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup and later fled abroad ahead of a corruption conviction, has been accused by the government of being a key force behind Red Shirt protesters who seized areas of downtown Bangkok before being overcome by army troops last week.

Thaksin has denied involvement. His lawyer said Tuesday the charge would undermine hopes of reconciliation in Thailand.

The demonstrations have deepened rifts in Thai society between the mostly rural poor supporters of Thaksin and current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose government they accuse of being oblivious to their plight.

On Monday, parliamentary opposition leaders moved to impeach Mr. Abhisit over his handling of the rioting.

The measure, which would need approval in the Senate, and a move to censure top Cabinet officials were expected to be easily defeated if put to a vote. They were expected to be debated during a special session of Parliament next week, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported.

Life in the Thai capital was largely back to normal Tuesday — with roads and shops in the protest zone reopened — although businesses are still counting the cost of the violence, which culminated in a wave of arson by protesters targeting malls, banks and government buildings.

The Cabinet decided Tuesday that the city of 10 million and nearly a third of Thailand’s provinces will remain under a nighttime curfew for another four days as a precaution against further unrest.

The Department of Special Investigations (DSI) said that Thaksin committed, threatened to commit or supported terrorist acts.

Criminal Court Judge Krerkrit Ittarat said it was up to the DSI to proceed with the prosecution and coordinate Thaksin’s extradition with the Foreign Ministry.

Previous attempts to extradite Thaksin have failed.

Thaksin, who is based principally in Dubai, already is barred from entry into Britain, where he earlier lived, and most European countries. But United Arab Emirates authorities have said the multimillionaire could remain as long as he refrained from political activities.

There were reports that Thaksin is currently in the seaside resort of Budva in Montenegro.

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