RPT-UPDATE 2-Ex-Thai PM Thaksin skips bail, stocks jump

Mon Aug 11, 2008 3:01am EDT

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(Updates throughout with statement, adds market reaction)

By Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra skipped bail on Monday to London, alleging that political enemies who removed him in a 2006 coup were interfering in the courts to "finish off" him and his family.

In a hand-written statement faxed to Thai television stations, Thaksin apologised to the Supreme Court and the public for failing to make a required appearance in a corruption case involving him and his wife, Potjaman.

"I must apologise again for deciding to come to live in England. If I am fortunate enough, I will return and die on Thai soil, just like other Thais," he said.

The stock market rose 3.3 percent amid hopes Thaksin's removal from the political scene would lower the chances of street clashes, or worse, between his supporters and opponents.

The baht was unchanged at 33.71/74 against the dollar.

Thaksin said his decision to leave Thailand again, less than six months after returning from post-coup exile, had been necessary because his enemies had been meddling in the judicial system "to finish off myself and my family."

"These are my political enemies. They don't care about the rule of law, facts or internationally recognised due process," he said.

Potjaman was sentenced to three years in jail last month for tax fraud, although she was freed on bail pending an appeal. Analysts say it was probably the prospect of watching his wife do jail time that forced Thaksin to leave the country.

He had been on bail of 8 million baht ($237,000).

More than $2 billion of his assets remain frozen in Thai bank accounts. It is not known what will happen to that cash.

His decision to flee rather than fight the potentially explosive corruption charges in court could mean the beginning of the end of the political turmoil that has dogged Thailand's government and markets for the past three years.

Thaksin had been due to return to Bangkok from the Olympic Games opening ceremony with his wife on Sunday evening.

The telecoms billionaire owns UK football club Manchester City and has a property in a swish London district. At least one of his adult children is studying in London.

After his removal by the army in 2006, mainly on the pretext of "rampant corruption," Thaksin spent much of his time in the British capital, as well as in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Thailand's post-coup government looked into trying to extradite Thaksin under a bilateral criminal treaty signed with Britain in 1911 but never lodged a formal request.

The treaty, signed while Thailand was called Siam and ruled by an absolute monarchy, still applies today, although Thaksin would be likely to argue he was the victim of a political witch-hunt.

($1=33.66 Baht)

(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould and Sanjeev Miglani)

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