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Court issues warrant for arrest of ex-PM Thaksin

BANGKOK -- Thailand's Supreme Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in the latest abuse of power charges brought against the controversial tycoon.

Thaksin, who was removed from power in a 2006 military coup and lives abroad to avoid a separate jail term for corruption, is one of 27 defendants facing trial over loans issued by the state-run Krung Thai Bank.

The former prime minister's absence from the Bangkok court “shows signs of evasion,” said one of the nine presiding judges.

“The court decides to issue an arrest warrant only against the first defendant (Thaksin) and his trial will be pending until the prosecutor can bring him to court,” he said.

Thaksin remains a deeply controversial figure in politically divided Thailand, where his sister Yingluck Shinawatra is the current prime minister.

He faces five charges including abuse of power and violation of banking laws along with the other defendants — who include former executives at Krung Thai.

They are accused of using their positions to allow the bank to lend to companies known to have been in a poor financial situation while Thaksin was still in power.

The abuse of power charges carry a maximum 10 year jail term and state prosecutors are seeking the return of 10.5 billion baht (US$340 million) in compensation.

A total of six arrest warrants have now been issued against Thaksin since he fled Thailand in 2008, including a case in which he was convicted of abuse of power over land purchases and four pending corruption trials.

Thailand's government has mooted an amnesty as part of reconciliation efforts following deadly street rallies in 2010 — seen as the culmination of years of increasingly bitter splits in Thai politics since the coup.

But the opposition has claimed the scheme is aimed at enabling Thaksin to return home. Yingluck's party has postponed discussion of the proposals over fears they would further stoke tensions in the volatile nation.

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