BANGKOK – A Thai Criminal Court on Monday issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he failed to show up for a court session in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Army.
Thaksin’s lawyer told the court that the former prime minister has been granted political asylum and is living abroad so was unable to appear in court.
The court then issued an arrest warrant and suspended the case pending Thaksin’s arrest.
The Royal Thai Army filed the defamation lawsuit, saying Thaksin had damaged its reputation by giving interview on YouTube and other online media from May 19 to 22.
In rare comments to foreign media, Thaksin accused the military of being part of a conspiracy that overthrew Thaksin’s sister, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014, days before a bloodless military coup.
“The accused did not come to the meeting so a warrant was issued as the court saw he was not in the country even though an appointment was made for the first hearing,” Major General Sarayuth Klinmahom, director of the Office of the Judge-Advocate of the Royal Thai Army, told reporters.
Thaksin himself was ousted by the army in 2006. Since then, the country has been divided between his supporters and the Bangkok-based elite which sees him as a threat to the old royalist-military establishment.
The self exiled former Thai leader also linked the Privy Council, comprising the king’s advisers, to last year’s coup. The Army said his accusations were untrue and had damaged its reputation.
After the coup, Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha defended his military take-over, claiming it was needed to end the political turmoil that had lasted more than seven months across 2013 and 2014.
Following the installment of a military government, the Thai Foreign Ministry revoked two passports belonging to Mr Thaksin. Prime Minister Prayut also stripped his police rank in September, describing the ex-premier as a disgrace to the Thai police force.
In 2008, a Thai court sentenced Mr Thaksin to two years in prison for corruption, a charge his supporters maintain was politically motivated.
Mr Thaksin fled Thailand after he was sentenced and has since been living in exile, mostly in Dubai. He was not attending Monday’s hearing.
Despite various charges against both Shinawatras, the pair maintain a strong support base in Thailand, particularly in the north and north east.