BANGKOK (AP) — Divisive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand on Tuesday after years of self-imposed exile to face criminal charges on the same day that a party affiliated with him plans to start forming a new government.
Thaksin has said his decision to return has nothing to do with an expected vote in Parliament later in the day on a candidate from the Pheu Thai party for prime minister. But many believe his arrival is connected to the party’s pursuit of power.
The 74-year-old billionaire promoted populist policies and used his telecommunications fortune to build his own Thai Rak Thai party and be elected prime minister in 2001 and easily reelected in 2005, before being ousted in a military coup in 2006 and fleeing into exile.
He was convicted in absentia in several criminal cases that he said were politically motivated, and could face prison time unless he receives a royal pardon.
In an interview with BBC Thai on Saturday, he said his return was planned before the date of the vote was set, and that he was prepared to follow the Thai legal process.