Thailand govt to reopen criminal cases against exiled ex-PM Thaksin
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Thailand govt to reopen criminal cases against exiled ex-PM Thaksin

THAILAND’s government has asked the country’s highest court to reopen the case of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for alleged graft.

On Tuesday, the Thai Attorney-General asked the Supreme Court to continue hearing two criminal cases against Thaksin, reported the Bangkok Post.

As of September, Thai politicians can now be tried in absentia under a new law under which Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced to jail despite having fled overseas.

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He was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and has lived in self-imposed exile since 2008. Graft cases were brought against Thaksin in 2008 and 2012, but had to be suspended until he returned to Thailand for trial.

“Public prosecutors put in a request to the supreme court today to proceed with the two cases without presence of the accused, in accordance with the new law,” Wanchart Santikunchorn, a spokesman for the office of the attorney-general, told reporters.

A former commerce minister and member of Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party that was ousted in the coup said the planned prosecution of Thaksin was politically motivated.

2017-07-17T235039Z_1106806162_RC17C9AC2E80_RTRMADP_3_THAILAND-POLITICS-YINGLUCK

Yingluck greets supporters as she arrives at the Supreme Court for a trial on criminal negligence looking into her role in a debt-ridden rice subsidy scheme during her administration, in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug 5, 2016. Source: Reuters

Thailand is divided broadly between those backing the Shinawatras and the old elites in the capital Bangkok.

Thaksin reshaped Thai politics after building a business empire, winning staunch support with populist policies that raised living standards, especially among the rural poor, and propelled him or his loyalists to victory in every election since 2001.

Yingluck fled the country in August, ahead of a verdict in a negligence trial, but was eventually found guilty and handed down a five-year jail term in absentia in September.

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Former commerce minister Watana Muangsook said the junta was damaging the country with politically motivated court cases.

“The law which allows court proceedings in absentia of the accused is aimed at destroying the regime’s political opposition,” Watana said in a statement.

Wanchart denied the moves against the Shinawatra family were biased, saying they were in line with the newly amended law.

Additional reporting by Reuters