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Sidelines: Let's create a 'Panic Room' atmosphere for Thaksin

The Office of the Attorney-General will send a team to London to explore the possibility of extraditing Thaksin Shinawatra to stand trial in two criminal cases following findings of irregularities by the Assets Examination Committee.

Published on September 16, 2007


The Thai prosecutors will consult with their British counterparts seeking legal grounds for the extradition. Prior to their departure, they have already heard a scoff from Thaksin's legal spokesman.

"Don't even try, it will be futile. We have got a fine legal team in place to defend Thaksin," said Noppadon Pattama with bravado. Noppadon has earned the status of British barrister-at-law thanks to an Ananda Mahidol scholarship, which financed his study in England.

This irony is very hurtful to Thai people. The scholarship is generally meant for those who would go on to do useful things for the public or national good.

Noppadon applies his qualifications and talent, in return for a princely salary, to serve a disgraced politician in exile, who still wants to regain government power through political nominees.

It will be a long and gruelling battle if Thai prosecutors try to bring Thaksin back to Thailand to face his accusers for his misdeeds. Thaksin will spend his money to protect himself and ward off the arm of the Thai law.

The best way to go about doing this would be for the Thai government and prosecutors to hire an experienced and talented British law firm to engage in the legal battle on its behalf to ensure that the effort is not wasted as it was in the Rakesh Saxena case in Canada.

No matter what the legal expenses would be, it would certainly be worth it if the British lawyers were able to win the fight and bring Thaksin here to stand trial. At the same time, they should try to find out what assets Thaksin has concealed abroad, particularly in Swiss bank accounts. The bounty is tempting. The stakes are high. Judging from Thaksin's recent hollering about Swiss banks freezing his accounts, turning the banks' vaults into his "Panic Room", the cash deposits should be enormous, in the billions of dollars, if not more.

While they pursue Thaksin's extradition, other government units, like the Anti-Money Laundering Office, should open another front in the war, by seeking cooperation from their counterparts worldwide to go after his assets.

Engaging the man in exile and bringing trouble to his temporary home base would reduce the trouble caused by his well-funded political nominees and cronies in Thailand.

At the same time, the government should contemplate changes in legal and court procedures to bring true justice and fairness to all parties in legal battles and to prevent harassment lawsuits.

We have, on many occasions, heard Thaksin's claims and his legal spokesman's arrogant assertion that they would not want to fight legal charges in Thai courts because the current atmosphere is unfavourable and they could not be guaranteed full justice.

This is of course ridiculous. By saying that the court would not be fair to him when he was called to stand trial, Thaksin has surely acted in contempt of the court. Nobody has yet to take up this matter in the courts.

But when he wanted to bring multimillion-baht libel suits against his critics and those regarded as enemies, he had his lawyers file the cases in the Thai courts. What else is this if not evidence of a double standard?

There is something wrong in our court procedural system. Recently, the court issued an instruction stating that if Thaksin is to face criminal charges, his exact domicile must be defined and he must be brought to court, otherwise there would be a stay of trial.

This means that Thaksin cannot be charged in absentia. On the other hand, he is not required to appear in court when he acts as a plaintiff and sues somebody for millions, if not billions, of baht.

The latest victims of his mega-billion libel suits are a team from Manager led by Sondhi Limthongkul. This time, Thaksin is seeking the tidy sum of Bt2 billion for the injury done to his good name. It does not matter if Thaksin is laughing his head off and scoffing at the obvious flaws in court procedure. By doing this, he is exploiting the Thai legal system, just as he exploited so many other areas - something that led to a military coup and his downfall.

Let's stop all this nonsense. Relevant laws and procedures should be amended to ensure fairness. Thaksin should appear in court as a plaintiff, and not in absentia while enjoying his life in exile in London.

At the same time, let's keep him busy with more legal troubles by bringing litigation in London and give him cause to be worried about his hidden assets and cash hoarded in Swiss banks - more of a "Panic Room" atmosphere, to be precise. This would be truly fair to him and to all of us here.

Thaksin does not want justice. He just wants to get off the legal hook. He will have a louder laugh if our incompetence and other failures allow him to go scot-free.

Sopon Onkgara

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