Thaksin Shinawatra criticizes military junta and talks about his future plans

Having lost his power, former Thai Prime Minister criticizes his country's military junta and lays out his future plans to run his British soccer club and engage in charitable activities.

"Since the overthrow of my government, the military junta has acted in the interests of a small group of urban elites and not in the interests of the people of Thailand," Thaksin said in a speech at the Foreign Press Association. "It ripped up the peoples' constitution and replaced it with a text designed to preserve military power and stifle legitimate democracy."

On Tuesday, Thailand's Supreme Court suspended a corruption trial of the fugitive deposed prime minister until authorities can bring him to court.

Thaksin, a 58-year-old billionaire, and his wife Pojamarn failed to appear in court in Bangkok for the first hearing of the trial in connection with her purchase of a prime piece of Bangkok real estate in 2003, when Thaksin was prime minister.

Thaksin was deposed in a bloodless coup on Sept. 19, 2006, after months of popular demonstrations calling for him to step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power. He was in New York at the time and has not returned to Thailand since then.

He and his family now live in self-imposed exile in London where Thaksin owns the Manchester City soccer team.

During his speech and a question-and-answer session at the Foreign Press Association, Thaksin criticized the international community, which he said had remained uncritical of the military in Thailand.

"The Thai people have had to suffer in silence and wait patiently for the promised return of the democracy and prosperity they deserve," the former prime minister said.

He repeated that he is innocent of all the charges, but said he would not return to Thailand before a democratically elected government was in place. He emphasized that if he did go back it would be as a private citizen, not as a politician.

"Thailand needs stability and prosperity ... so I think it's time for me find other jobs instead of going back to politics," Thaksin said. With a grin, he added: "My wife said, `If you go back to politics, I'll divorce you."'

He urged all Thais eligible to vote to do so in Thailand's next election.

In the meantime, Thaksin said, he is enjoying his life here in London with his family.

Without giving many details, he said he would set up a charitable foundation. "I may invite some others, ex-leaders, to join me," he said.

The former Thai leader also said he was going to devote his energy to running the Manchester City soccer club and that he hoped to bring more Asian players to the team, adding: "I told my friends in Japan to scout some Japanese players."

Regarding the current attacks on demonstrators in Myanmar, a neighbor of Thailand, Thaksin urged both sides to find a peaceful solution.

He was asked if he felt partially responsible for the crisis in Myanmar, since he had cooperated with its military junta as Thailand's leader.

"As an immediate neighbor you have to cooperate and work together," Thaksin replied. "At the same time, we wanted to show them how democracy is good for the country."

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Author`s name Angela Antonova