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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Mr Thaksin's popularity is undiminished"
 real 56k

The BBC's Oranuch Anusaksalthien
"It is widely expected to take a month or two for the judges to consider all the evidence"
 real 56k

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Thai PM declares innocence
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrives in court
The PM appeared relaxed as he arrived in court
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has made a final appeal to the country's constitutional court to overturn a ruling that could see him removed from office.

During the appeal he denied he had deliberately concealed the extent of his wealth, saying that, if he had made a mistake, it was made "unwittingly".

If the court upholds the ruling he will be banned from public office for five years.

Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra with Buddhist monks
Thaksin prayed with Buddhist monks last week for good fortune
During a sometimes emotional statement to the 15-judge court, Mr Thaksin said his failure to fully declare the assets was "due to the confusion of rules and regulation".

His defence team also said he was unaware of the paperwork because his wife took care of his business affairs after he entered politics.

However, a lawyer for the National Counter-Corruption Commission, which carried out the investigation into Mr Thaksin's affairs, said all the evidence showed that the assets had been deliberately transferred to his driver and maid in order to avoid paying tax.

Buddhist prayers

More than five months after his decisive election victory, the popularity of Thailand's prime minister remains high.

About 2,000 supporters greeted him as he arrived at the court, cheering "fight for the nation, fight on".

Last week, the prime minister attended a Buddhist religious ceremony along with 30,000 of his followers, where monks prayed for his good fortune.

Alleged intimidation

Mr Thaksin's opponents have accused him of orchestrating the campaigns to intimidate the judges of the constitutional court who will decide his fate some time in the next two months.

But the judges have insisted they will reach a verdict based on law, not on Mr Thaksin's popularity.

The charges are that he deliberately concealed some of his wealth while he was deputy prime minister back in 1997, in violation of the regulations governing state officials.

Under Thailand's tough new anti-corruption rules he faces a ban from public office for five years if he is found guilty.

But it is possible the judges could back-date that to 1997, meaning he would be out of office for just 18 months.

As his Thai Rak-Thai party has by far the largest number of seats in parliament, Mr Thaksin would remain an influential figure even if he did lose his job.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thai PM hits back at probe
14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand monks in pro-Prime Minister rally
03 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
03 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Thailand
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