Thailand’s former PM Thaksin arrested after ending his 15-year self-imposed exile

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Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been arrested and produced in court after returning home after ending his 15-year self-imposed exile.

According to Thai media, Thaksin, who made a fortune in the telecommunications business, landed at Bangkok’s Don Moyang Airport on Tuesday morning in a private plane from Singapore.

Thaksin paid tribute to the king on his arrival and shortly afterwards he was taken to the Supreme Court in a police convoy, where he was charged with abuse of power and several other criminal offences that he described as politically motivated.

His daughter Petungtern Shinawatra shared a picture of the family on Instagram and wrote, ‘Welcome to Thailand Daddy’.

According to Reuters, police say Thaksin will be taken to a prison in Bangkok.

Thaksin came to power in 2001 on a public platform that attracted rural Thais who had long been ignored by the country’s ruling elite. Five years later he was brought back with an overwhelming majority, but in September 2006, when Thaksin was preparing to address the United Nations in New York, the military seized power.

Thaksin was later convicted of abuse of power and went into exile in 2008 and spent most of his time in Dubai.

Thailand has been in political turmoil since the 2006 coup and supporters of Thaksin and pro-establishment have taken to the streets amid elections and uprisings.

Thousands of red-shirted activists of the grassroots rural movement formed to defend Thaksin’s government after the 2006 coup were waiting for his arrival near the VIP terminal. Many carried placards with slogans like ‘Welcome Home Thaksin’ written on them.

Thaksin won successive elections in 2001 and 2005 but was ousted in a military coup.

Deputy Prime Minister of the outgoing military-affiliated government, Vasano Kariya Nigam, said Thaksin would be able to request clemency and could be given special treatment because of his age, the Associated Press reported.

Thaksin was taken away by police before he could personally welcome his supporters, but when he was taken to court, posters praising his return to the highway reminded him of the fact that many people respect him despite being away for so many years.