Thailand to negotiate Thaksin return after polls

 
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NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand, Nov 12 (Reuters) Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra should stay in exile until after the military-appointed government holds new elections, his successor said today.

''The best way is waiting until we can solve problems,'' Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told reporters who had asked when Thaksin could come back.

''In one year, we think, when we have a new government and have an election, it should be the most suitable time,'' he said.

But Surayud left it unclear what conditions might be imposed on the return of Thaksin, now living in exile in London, by a government installed by coup leaders promising a new constitution and fresh elections within a year.

''It depends on how much he can sacrifice. His return could lead to problems in national conciliation,'' Surayud said. ''We need to talk and agree.'' Surayud, a retired army chief, was appointed by the military after they ousted Thaksin on September 19 while he was attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Martial law is still in place despite the welcome most Thais gave to the coup, which ended months of political deadlock as street campaigners accused Thaksin of corruption and abuse of power. He always denied the charges.

The coup leaders say they have not lifted martial law, despite the absence of any serious opposition, because of ''undercurrents'' generated by supporters of Thaksin, twice a winner of general elections in landslides.

Thaksin, a telecommunications billionaire, has resigned from the Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party he led to those victories and has said little about his future plans.

But two of his children are under serious financial pressure from the new government, which says they should pay heavy taxes on the 1.9 billion dollars sale of a majority stake in Shin Corp to Singapore state investment firm Temasek in January.

The sale, tax-free at the time, fuelled the campaign against Thaksin and brought tens of thousands of middle-class people onto the streets of Bangkok.

The Shinawatra family would fight a tax bill likely to amount to tens of millions of dollars, its lawyer said yesterday.

REUTERS SP HT1315

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