- Title: THAILAND: Thai court sentences former PM Thaksin to jail in graft case
- Date: 21st October 2008
- Summary: (BN10) BANGKOK, THAILAND (OCTOBER 21, 2008) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF COURT ROOM AT SUPREME COURT PROSECUTORS TEAM ENTERING THE COURT ROOM VARIOUS OF JUDGES SITTING IN COURT ROOM MORE OF INTERIOR COURT ROOM EXTERIOR OF SUPREME COURT BUILDING (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) SEKSAN BANGSOMBUN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, SAYING: "The prosecutor has set up a working team headed by Mr. Wongsakul to proceed with the extradition request." PROSECUTOR NEWS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) SEKSAN BANGSOMBUN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, SAYING: "We will need to translate the court's verdict to English to request his extradition from England and it will be one of several steps in the process." FORMER PRIME MINISTER THAKSIN SHINAWATRA'S SUPPORTERS OUTSIDE COURT COMPOUND THAKSIN'S SUPPORTERS WITH BANNER READING, "JUSTICE MADE TO ORDER" SUPPORTER HOLDING THAKSIN'S PHOTO SUPPORTERS CHANTING "WE MISS PRIME MINISTER THAKSIN" VARIOUS OF WOMEN CRYING (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) OAY, THAKSIN SUPPORTER, SAYING: "We already knew that the verdict would be like this. The outcome is what everyone expected. Everything has been preset." (BN10) BANGKOK, THAILAND (FILE - JULY 2008) (REUTERS) THAKSIN ENTERING CRIMINAL COURT DURING HIS WIFE'S CASE ON TAX FRAUD POLICEMEN OUTSIDE THE COURT THAKSIN AND HIS WIFE POTJAMAN LEAVING THE COURT VARIOUS OF THAKSIN'S WIFE AND FAMILY LEAVING COURT
- Embargoed: 5th November 2008 12:00
- Location: Thailand
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAAAH9K8YXTC9M3XJJMA6B6L3SH
- Story Text: Thailand's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday (October 21) that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had violated a conflict-of-interest law while in office and sentenced him to two years in prison.
The nine judges ruled by five to four that Thaksin, who has been at the heart of Thailand's political crisis over the past three years and now lives in exile in Britain, had got involved in his wife's purchase of land from an arm of the central bank.
The court acquitted Thaksin on two other criminal charges, each of which carried a 10-year sentence. It also acquitted his wife, Potjaman, of all charges.
It did not seize the land, as requested by prosecutors.
Speaking to Reuters by telephone, Thaksin said he had long anticipated that the trial would end this way.
"The case is politically motivated and you know what politics in Thailand is like," he said.
He denied British media reports he was seeking asylum in Britain. A Thai prosecutor said he would urge Britain to extradite Thaksin now that the court had sentenced him to prison.
"We will need to translate the court's verdict to English to request his extradition from England and it will be one of several steps in the process," Chief Prosecutor Seksan Bangsombun.
About 300 Thaksin supporters were near the court, which was guarded by 100 uniformed police officers. One group managed to wave a banner criticising the court. "Justice for all, but Thaksin," the banner read.
The supporters said they had expected the verdict would turn this way.
"We already knew that the verdict would be like this. It outcome is what everyone expected. Everything has been preset," said Oay, a Thaksin supporter.
The ruling was the first in a series of corruption cases involving Thaksin and his political associates prepared by graft investigators appointed after he was ousted in a military coup in 2006.
It will do little to narrow the political divide in Thailand and will be seen as a further blow to the government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who is his brother-in-law.
Ramkhamhaeng University political analyst Boonyakiat Karavekphan said the unsurprising ruling will do little to reduce Thaksin's strong popularity in the countryside.
Thaksin was removed from power by the army because of the allegations of rampant corruption during his five years in power. Nearly US$2 billion of his family's assets have been frozen in Thai bank accounts.
An elected government came to power this year but the main party in the coalition, the People Power Party, is seen by opponents as a mere proxy for Thaksin.
The extra-parliamentary People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been waging a street campaign since May to force the government out and has occupied the prime minister's official compound since August.
Two people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between PAD supporters and the police on Oct. 7.
The political crisis dates back to 2005 when the PAD launched street protests against Thaksin, alleging corruption and abuse of power. It has meandered through a coup to elections and back to protests and shows no sign of resolution.
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