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When Thaksin decided to go missing

FORMER PRIME minister Thaksin Shinawatra chose not to return to Thailand to acknowledge a court ruling after he was allowed to leave the country in August 2008 to attend the Beijing Olympics. Instead of returning home, Thaksin flew to London and applied for asylum.

However, his application was turned down, which forced him to move from one country to another.

The former prime minister has been in self-exile overseas until this day, spending much of his time in Dubai, though he is believed to have maintained his influence over subsequent governments led by pro-Thaksin political parties.

In September 2006, Thaksin was ousted from office while on a trip to the United States. On February 28, 2008 - some 17 months after he first left Thailand - the ex-leader returned home after the People's Power Party won the first general elections held after the coup and formed a government headed by Samak Sundaravej.

Upon arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thaksin - in full view of the media - knelt and kissed the ground to loud cheers of his supporters. He vowed to "prove his innocence" in court.

Yet just two months before the Supreme Court's Criminal Division on Political Office Holders was due to deliver a ruling in a case against him, Thaksin sought permission and was allowed to attend the Olympics with his then-wife, Pojaman. In early October 2008, the court found him guilty of conflict of interest and sentenced him in absentia to two years in jail.

Thaksin has never returned since then.


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