Ousted Thai Prime Minister sentenced to jail by SC

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Bangkok, Oct 21 (UNI) Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, living in exile in Britain, was today given a two-year jail term by the country's apex court for having abused office for personal gain.

The Supreme Court ruling on prosecution charges that Mr Thaksin as Prime Minister helped his wife buy Bangkok prime real estate at below market rates in a state agency auction five years ago, is the first indictment in a series of corruption charges initiated against Mr Thaksin after his ouster by the armed forces two years ago.

The former Prime Minister and his wife fled to Britain in August this year where they are seeking political asylum, alleging they would not get a fair trial in Thailand and that the cases against them are politically motivated.

Mr Thaksin's wife has already been convicted on charges of evading taxes and was sentenced to three years in jail before the couple fled into exile.

Today's ruling is expected to heighten the tense political standoff in Bangkok between the People Power Party (PPP)-led government that owes allegiance to Mr Thaksin and the influential anti-government civil society People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The PAD has been forcibly occupying the Prime Minister's Office for over two months, forcing the Prime Minister and Cabinet to work out of Bangkok's former international airport.

Accusing the PPP of being a proxy of Mr Thaksin, the PAD advocates intervention by the military and the palace in politics and has put forward a proposal that would effectively disenfranchise the country's rural majority.

UNI XC SKB ND1605

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