Former Thai prime minister and wife said to have fled into exile

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Bangkok, Aug 11 (UNI) Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife failed to return to Thailand today from China to answer corruption charges in court with local media reporting that the duo have fled into exile.

Mr Thaksin and his wife had been given permission by the Supreme Court to travel to Beijing to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony and the two were booked to return to Bangkok yesterday night on a Thai Airways flight.

His wife Pojaman Shinawatra was last month sentenced to three years in jail for evading taxes of more than half a billion baht (about 20 million US dollars) in a major transfer of family business shares. She was freed on bail.

Close associates of the former prime minister were quoted confirming media reports that Mr Thaksin and his wife were now in England.

Mr Thaksin's lawyers were preparing to submit a statement explaining the non-appearance of their client in court today to answer charges in connection with another corruption case against the former prime minister and his wife.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by a section of the armed forces on September 19, 2006 following months of anti-government street protests in Bangkok.

UNI XC RJ NS1037

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