Thai PM cleared of fraud charges

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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, said his personal nightmare had been lifted and a period of political uncertainty ended as the constitutional court acquitted him of charges that he had concealed assets while serving in a previous government.

The court's 15 judges voted 8-7 in Mr Thaksin's favour, allowing him to continue to head the government which came to power after his Thai Rak Thai, – or "Thai Love Thai" – Party won a sweeping victory in a January general election. If he had been found guilty, he would have been forced to resign and barred from office for five years.

Mr Thaksin said: "I would like to thank the judges who voted for me, for giving me justice and announcing to the world that Thailand remains normal, that honest people will not be sent out from politics."

The court rejected a finding last December by the national counter-corruption commission that Mr Thaksin had intentionally failed to list as assets company shares, worth millions of pounds, owned by the former telecoms tycoon and his wife but held in the names of several proxies, including some of their servants.

He had said his failure to list all his assets when he was deputy prime minister in 1997 was inadvertent and a result of confusion about the law.

"I hope the dark cloud has been removed," he said in a public address after the verdict.

"I want to assure the Thai people that government will work hard from now on and there will be no more political uncertainty in this country. The nightmare of my life has become a force to move us all." (AP)