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Arrest warrant issued for Thailand’s ex-PM in Burma loan trial

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra looks on as he speaks to Reuters during an interview in Singapore on Feb. 23, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

The Thai Supreme Court on Wednesday issued another arrest warrant for fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the case in which he is accused of malfeasance over the Export-Import Bank of Thailand’s 4 billion baht ($120 million) loan to Burma that favoured his family business.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions issued the warrant after Thaksin failed to appear in the court on Wednesday. It will wait for three months before proceeding with the case in absentia under the new criminal procedure law for holders of political office.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with the court in 2008, but the court shelved it due to the absence of Thaksin. The new criminal procedure law that took effect last year resulted in the revival of the case, along with other cases against him.

The court set the examination of witnesses and evidence in the case for 9 a.m. on Oct. 31.

In the loan case, Thaksin stands accused of abusing his authority as prime minister some 14 years ago by having the Exim Bank lend 4 billion baht to the Burmese government for 12 years for use in building a satellite telecommunications system. The loan was at 3 percent interest, which was below the bank’s operating cost.

Lending at an interest rate below operating cost was not an objective of the bank’s establishment and the loan was estimated to have cost the bank 670 million baht in damages, according to earlier reports.

Shin Satellite, a company in which members of the Shinawatra family were majority shareholders, benefitted from the loan as Burma spent it buying telecommunications equipment and satellite services from Shin Satellite.

Initially, the bank had opened a credit line of 3 billion baht for Burma, but Thaksin asked the bank to increase the credit line by 1 billion baht. After that, the interest rate on the loan was cut from 5.5 percent to 3 percent.

Thaksin fled the country in 2008 just before the court sentenced him to two years in jail for conflict of interest in the purchase by his then-wife of state-owned land in inner Bangkok in 2003, when he was prime minister.

He was removed from office by a military coup in 2006 while overseas.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post