(Updates throughout with statement, adds market reaction)
By Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK 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,"
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
(Additional reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Writing by Ed
Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould and Sanjeev Miglani)