Former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he wanted to return to Thailand in February, as he called for reconciliation with the military following weekend elections.
Thaksin, who was deposed by a military coup 15 months ago, also insisted he did not want to return to politics following the polls, which saw his allies in the People Power Party (PPP) emerge as the biggest party in the new parliament.
"I will go back from February onwards," Thaksin told reporters in Hong Kong, in his first reaction to the election result, declining to give a precise date, although he hoped it would be by April.
"I want to go back when my life can be peaceful in Thailand, as a normal citizen," said the billionaire former telecom tycoon, who has been living in exile mainly in London since the military seized power.
Thaksin struck a conciliatory tone, calling for national reconciliation and holding out an olive branch to the military.
"I would like to congratulate them (voters) for bringing back democracy for Thailand," he said. "This should bring reconciliation efforts by everybody."
Thaksin added: "I would also like to thank the military-installed government for efforts to allow the general election to happen."
Thaksin, who was in contact with PPP leaders throughout the election, said repeatedly that he wanted to quit politics when he returned to Thailand, where a military-appointed tribunal in May banned him from politics for five years.
"I am quitting politics, I am not going back to politics. I will not take any political position except when they want any ideas," he said.
However he later indicated that he could change his mind if the situation in Thailand changed.
"I have no wish to go back to politics until I feel safe, and then I will have to assess the situation."
Unofficial returns from Sunday's election gave the PPP 232 of the 480 seats in parliament, just short of the absolute majority needed to govern alone.
Party leaders have been trying to build a ruling coalition with smaller parties and have confidently predicted they will be forming the next government.
The Democrat Party, which came in second with 165 seats, has already refused to join a PPP-led government.