BANGKOK (AFP) — A Thai court on Wednesday issued a fifth arrest warrant for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, after he failed to appear in a case accusing him of amending tax policy to enrich his business empire.
Thaksin fled to Britain with his family in August and is seeking political asylum, arguing that he would not get a fair trial on the corruption charges mounting against him here, but prosecutors have forged ahead with the case.
"The defendant failed to appear before the court without informing us," Supreme Court judge Pongphet Vichitchonchai said.
"It shows his intention to escape (the charges). The court has decided to issue an arrest warrant against him."
As there was no indication of when Thaksin planned to return to his homeland, the court also temporarily suspended the case.
The case is related to Advanced Info Service (AIS), one of Thailand's biggest mobile phone operators and a subsidiary of Shin Corp, the telecoms giant founded by Thaksin.
An anti-corruption body set up by the junta which overthrew Thaksin in September 2006 has accused the former premier of changing a telecoms concession fee into an excise tax in 2003, saving AIS money in a concessions deal.
Thaksin eventually sold his family's stake in Shin Corp to Singapore's state-owned investment unit Temasek for almost 1.9 billion dollars.
The January 2006 tax-free sale sparked massive street protests that eventually culminated in the 2006 coup.
Most of the money linked to the sale -- about 76 billion baht (2.2 billion dollars) -- has been frozen by the anti-graft body.
Thaksin already has four other arrest warrants outstanding on a variety of corruption cases, and his wife Pojaman was on July 31 convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to three years in jail.
She appealed, but analysts have said the court decision against her stunned Thaksin and helped spark the couple's flight into exile.
Two people died and several hundred were injured on October 7 after supporters of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) descended on parliament in Bangkok to try to stop lawmakers from meeting.
Their protests were met with a volley of tear gas from police.
The PAD has occupied the prime minister's offices since late August, accusing the ruling People Power Party of running the country on behalf of ex-premier Thaksin.
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