Former Thai PM wanted over 2006 loan to Myanmar generals

A photo uploaded to social media after a chance encounter with Thaksin at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda in Feb. 2015.

Thailand’s Supreme Court has issued a warrant yesterday for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra over his alleged abuse of power in 2006 by ordering a Thai bank to offer a loan to Myanmar’s then-ruling military junta that would benefit him personally at the expense of the bank.

Thaksin is accused of using his office to pressure the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to raise a THB3 billion (US$90 million) loan to THB4 billion (US$120 million) so that the junta could hire his own company, Shin Satellite, to build a satellite telecommunication system. The loan was also granted at an interest rate of three percent, which did not cover the bank’s operating costs.

Thaksin was first charged over the loan in 2008, the same year he fled Thailand to avoid a prison sentence over another corruption scandal and two years after he was removed from office by a military coup. The proceedings in the Myanmar case were put on hold because he had fled the country.

Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission asked the court to resume the proceedings last year after the country’s parliament passed a law that allows cases against public officials to go forward in absentia.

The first hearing was scheduled for yesterday, and when Thaksin did not show up, the court issued a warrant for his arrest. It was the fourth warrant issued against him under the new law.

The court will hold a pre-trial examination of the evidence against the former prime minister on Oct. 31.

Thaksin was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008 over his wife’s purchase of state-owned land in central Bangkok in 2003. He currently travels the world with several passports, none of them Thai, and he has said he still has access to US$100 million of his money.

He was spotted at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda in Feb. 2015, and a photo of his visit was posted on social media.

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