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Thai coup leader warns Thaksin not to return

The leader of last month's coup says that the former PM must consult the military junta before returning to Thailand.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 19:11 IST

The leader of last month's coup again warned ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday not to try to return home, one day after admitting that graft probes against him had made little headway.

"We have to be consulted first if former Prime Minister Thaksin wants to return to Thailand," General Sondhi Boonyaratklin told reporters.

The remarks echoed comments he made in a newspaper interview published Thursday, when he admitted investigators had yet to turn up solid evidence to support corruption charges against Thaksin.

Sondhi has repeatedly justified the military's September 19 takeover by claiming that rampant corruption during Thaksin's five years in office had undermined democracy.

But he told The Nation newspaper "it will be difficult to implicate him" in major corruption cases.

"I am not sure how far the Office of the Auditor General can investigate suspected corruption cases involving him. They might get nowhere at all," Sondhi was quoted as saying on Thursday.

The remarks came amid growing criticism of the junta and rumors that Thaksin might try to return to Thailand from London, where he has lived in exile since shortly after the coup.

Thaksin's wife, Pojaman, met former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda, a top adviser to Thailand's revered king, reportedly to seek permission for his return.

Prem, who is believed to have played a prominent role in the coup, told her Thaksin should accept his fate, according to General Oud Beungbon, a former Prem aide who attended the meeting.

Prem on Friday confirmed the general's account of the meeting, but declined to give any details himself.

"It's not an exciting story, you don't have to ask me about it. Everything was like what General Oud has disclosed to the media," Prem told reporters.

He spoke after giving a speech at the health ministry, where he did not mention Thaksin directly but accused recent leaders of being unethical.

"The ethics of our leaders has been deteriorating," he said.

Thailand's new Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who was installed by Sondhi earlier this month, told reporters late on Thursday that his government would try to dissuade Thaksin from returning.

"I think that we will discuss this with him to give him a better understanding of when would be an appropriate time for him to return," Surayud said.

While the coup has enjoyed general support from the public, criticism has grown, especially since Sondhi last week appointed a parliament stacked with members close to Prem.

Surayud is set to outline his government's policies to parliament on November 3, when he will announce new measures to crack down on corruption, according to a copy of the policy statement obtained by the agency on Friday.

"In order to enhance the ability of independent agencies and the public to effectively scrutinise corruption, including any conflict of interest, the government will propose a law against conflicts of interest for both holders of political office and government officials," the policy statement said.

It also said that more transparency would help the economy, which it said would be guided by principles of self-sufficiency and sustainable development.

"It's government policy to allow the mechanisms of the market economy to proceed under principles of ethics and good governance, by eradicating personal conflicts of interest," it said.

But the statement made no mention of when martial law might be lifted, or when limits on political parties and the media would be repealed.

First Published: Oct 27, 2006 19:11 IST