A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Thailand to strip Thaksin of awards, police rank

Justify Full28th October, 2009

BANGKOK, Oct 28 (AFP) - Thailand said Wednesday that it would strip fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra of his royal awards and his police rank as the government presses on with a campaign against its arch-foe.

The announcement came amid tensions over an offer of shelter from neighbouring Cambodia for Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The billionaire remains an influential figure on Thailand's turbulent political scene, stirring up mass protests from abroad against the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit said the government's legal advisory body, the Council of State, had recommended that the National Police Office should revoke Thaksin's rank of lieutenant colonel from his days in the police force from 1973 to 1987.

It should also confiscate the two highest royal awards given to Thaksin -- the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant and the Most Illustrious Order of King Chula Chonklao, Abhisit said.

"The National Police Office had sought the recommendation from the Council of State and the recommendation has come out, so it must act to comply with the ruling," he told reporters.

Abhisit denied that the government was trying to tarnish Thaksin's image after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen angered the Thai government last week by offering Thaksin refuge in Cambodia and a job as his economic advisor.

Thai and Cambodian forces have fought several deadly battles in the past year and a half in a row over disputed land around an ancient temple on their border.

Twice-elected Thaksin fled Thailand last year before he was sentenced to two years in jail in a corruption case. His allies were driven from government in December after anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok's airports.

Abhisit has said Thaksin, who has several passports and divides his time between a number of countries, must return to Thailand to face justice. (AFP)

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