From Andrew Drummond,
Bangkok Supreme Court, October 21 08
Former Thai Premier and owner of Manchester City Football Club was branded a criminal today and jailed for two years while ‘in absentia’ in England.
After finding him guilty of corruption in a land deal the Supreme Court submitted the verdict to Thailand’s Attorney General to pass to Britain for extradition proceedings.
PAD protesters at Government House – Picture Andrew Chant
Thousands of Thais, members of the opposition People’s Alliance for Democracy were last night on the streets of Bangkok also calling on Britain to return Mr.Shinawatra which they said would to put an end to the Bangkok stand-off – which started when they seized control of Government House here three months ago.
Sporting banners reading ‘Send Thaksin back now’ and ‘UK Government Stop Harbouring Criminals’ members of the PAD cheered and sent thousands of plastic hand-clappers off as the sentence against Thaksin Shinawatra, known as ‘Frank’ to Man City fans was announced.
But as a sign of how split the country is the judges only voted 5 against 4 for the conviction and they acquitted Thaksin’s wife of corruption as she was ‘not a member of government’.
Behind the calls for the return of Thaksin is the belief, held widely on both sides, that Thaksin Shinawatra, has been affectively controlling the leaders of two proxy governments since the military junta ousted him in a coup. The PAD say only if Thaksin is in jail will he stop attempting to meddle in Thailand’s affairs.
Kanchana Malaithong ,45, from Lampang sporting a ‘Stop Harbouring Criminals’ placard outside PAD headquarters at Government House said: ‘The only safe thing for Thailand is if Thaksin is actually put in jail.
‘He claims he is not involved in politics, but that is a lie, even his puppet Prime Ministers admit to consulting him. The people are sick of corrupt and greedy politicians.’
The Thai National Human Rights Commission has blamed both the current Thai government, run by Thaksin’s brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, and police, for violence two weeks ago when 400 protesters were injured and two were killed, after police attacked with Chinese made tear gas bombs, which contained explosives and blew off limbs.
Shinawatra was found guilty of corruption by signing off on a deal which allowed his wife Pojoman, 51, to buy a massive city centre area of Bangkok from a government department at one third of its market price while her husband was Prime Minister.
Pojaman is currently appealing a three year jail sentence imposed in July for tax fraud involving the same 13 acre piece of land. But she and her husband fled Thailand to Britain, via the Beijing Olympics, after her last conviction.
Pojaman, born into one of Thailand’s richest Chinese Thai families, had bought a sixteen acre site of prime real estate in Ratchadphisek in the centre of Bangkok from a government financial department.
Today’s result was not unexpected even by Thaksin himself who said: ‘I had long anticipated that it would turn out this way’.
In the earlier case in his judgment the principal judge was quoted as saying that the defendants had ‘lied, cheated, and conspired to evade taxes, which is regarded as a serious crime.’
The last Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who admitted in his campaign that he was Thaksin’s nominee, was forced to resign his Premiership when it clashed with a politically oriented cookery show he hosted on television.
The current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law has been found guilty by the National Counter Corruption of dereliction of duty in a remarkably similar case in which he allowed subordinates in his department at the Justice Ministry to sell government land without taking the appropriate fee.
And to cap it all the office of the Attorney General’s Office last week petitioned the Constitutional Court to disband the ruling PPP government and two of its coalition partners for electoral fraud.
So far the Thai Government of his brother-in-law Somchai has not even revoked Shinawatra’s diplomatic passport.
In Britain Thaksin Shinawatra had been told he could not remain owner of Manchester City F.C. once he had a conviction, and last week the passenger window of his Rolls Royce was reported to have been smashed.
On another occasion while dining at a Chinese restaurant in Notting Hill Gate other customers are reported to have banged their glasses on their tables in protest at his presence.