Thailand's prime minister said on Saturday that toppled leader Thaksin Shinawatra could return to the kingdom if he vowed not to engage in politics, after the ousted premier said he wished to go home.
Interviewed on state-run television by his press spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp, Surayud Chulanont said that Thaksin could return to Thailand under certain conditions, but only after negotiating with the junta and government.
"If he wants to return, then we can begin negotiations over whether he will engage in any type of (political) movement," Surayud said.
"If we can reach a conclusion, then he can come back," he added.
In an interview broadcast on CNN Saturday morning, Thaksin, who has remained in exile since his overthrow on September 19, said that he wanted to return "to bring unity to the Thais".
He claimed that he had no intention of returning to politics, but the South China Morning Post reported on Friday that Thaksin had engaged the services of a top Washington political lobby group when he was in Hong Kong this month.
Surayud said that so far, Thaksin was not facing any charges in Thailand, but added that investigations into alleged corruption by Thaksin and his government were ongoing.
Thaksin was in New York when the military toppled his government, and has since remained in exile, hopping between Europe and Asia. He is currently in Japan.
His globetrotting appears to have made Thailand's rulers nervous, and they lashed out at Singapore on Tuesday after the city-state allowed Thaksin to meet a deputy prime minister there last weekend.
Surayud said Singapore had ignored Thailand's request not to let the meeting go ahead, signifying "they consider our (countries') ties as second priority than the meeting."
Soon after the coup, the junta warned Thaksin that they would not allow his plane to land if he tried to return without permission, and military leaders have since given mixed signals on a possible homecoming.