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Thai coup chief admits Thaksin probes struggling

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, Oct 26 (Reuters) Thai graft investigators are struggling to find evidence against ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin has said, even though he launched his September 19 coup to stamp out ''rampant corruption''.

In an interview with English- and Thai-language newspapers in the Nation Group stable, Sonthi admitted his anti-corruption task-force would find it ''difficult to implicate'' Thaksin in major graft cases.

''I want it to be done quickly. I am frustrated that it is not being done as I wished. I am not happy that it is moving very slowly. But we have to accept that,'' Sonthi was quoted as saying in the Kom Chad Luek tabloid.

Panels set up to investigate the assets of Thaksin, a billionaire telecoms tycoon ranked as Thailand's fourth richest man, had to observe the rule of law because of the international scrutiny of the army-appointed post-coup administration, he said.

''I guess I feel the same way when I watch soccer. I am always frustrated when I am waiting for my team to score and feel like getting on the field and playing myself,'' the English-language Nation quoted him as saying.

Sonthi, who remains head of a Council for National Security with the authority to fire the interim government appointed by the military, also said Thaksin would not be allowed to return to Thailand any time soon.

''If he's really concerned about the country, he shouldn't try to come back at present. He should use the phone if there's something urgent.'' Asked what would happen if Thaksin ''just got on a plane'' from London, where he is living in exile, Sonthi said: ''It wouldn't be allowed to land''.

Sonthi also said he would not lift the martial law that has been in place since the coup until the latent threat from Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party, which now has a new leader, had disappeared.

''I can't give you the exact timing of the lifting of martial law. Please let me just say we will do it as soon as possible,'' he said.

REUTERS LL BST0953

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