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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Thai PM hits back at probe
Workers carry boxes of Mr Thaksin's documents into the courthouse
The court could take a year to reach a decision
Lawyers for Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have described an anti-corruption probe into the premier as partisan and unfair.

I would like to show the court that the NCCC conducted the investigation unfairly, untransparently and hastily

Mr Thaksin's chief lawyer Suthee Dumnuadee
Mr Thaksin's case is being heard by the Constitutional Court, following accusations by the National Counter Corruption Commission that he concealed millions of dollars of assets from tax authorities while a cabinet minister in the 1990s.

His lawyers told the court the commission had close ties to the prime minister's political opponents and that the investigation was biased.

But if the court upholds the commission's findings, Mr Thaksin could be barred from political office for five years.


The court began hearings this week on the charges, which violate rules governing public officials.

Thai PM
Thaksin Shinawatra: Will not attend hearing
Although the hearings will last only two days, it could take the 14 judges in the court about a year to reach a verdict.

The new body first charged Mr Thaksin last December with filing some of his shareholdings in the names of family servants to avoid revealing the full extent of his wealth.

"I would like to show the court that the NCCC conducted the investigation unfairly, untransparently and hastily," Thaksin's chief lawyer Suthee Dumnuadee told the court.

Dismissed charges

Even if the prime minister is forced to resign, however, his Thai Rak Thai party would retain its dominant position in the parliament following its election victory in January.

Mr Thaksin has already dismissed the charge against him as unfair and will not attend the hearings at the constitutional court in person.

Mr Thaksin, who won a landslide election victory just three months ago, remains a popular political leader.

The BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head, says the issue is proving a difficult test for Thailand's democratic institutions which have been substantially reformed over the past few years in an attempt to stamp out corruption.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai court probes PM's wealth
05 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai bomb 'was work of experts'
04 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM 'target' of plane fire
09 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai parliament votes Thaksin as PM
09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thaksin's rocky road to power
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