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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Ousted Thai PM 'free to return'
Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (file image)
Mr Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006
Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is free to return to fight the seizure of his $1.6bn assets, his successor says.

Interim PM Surayud Chulanont said he would personally guarantee Mr Thaksin's safety if he did return to Thailand.

Thailand's military ousted Mr Thaksin last year, accusing him of corruption. He has since been living in London.

On Monday, the government said it was freezing his accounts, the latest in a series of measures against him.

"He is eligible to return to account for his assets," Mr Surayud told reporters. "He has 60 days in which to do so."

Military leaders had previously said he would be unwelcome until after a general election set for December.

'Have to fight'

On Monday, the committee set up to examine corruption claims against Mr Thaksin said it had concluded that he had "committed wrongdoings".

It issued two orders freezing his assets, including 21 accounts holding money made from the controversial sale in January 2006 of Shin Corp, his telecoms giant, to a Singaporean firm.

The sale sparked days of street protests in Bangkok and was a key factor in the political unrest that preceded the military coup.

Mr Thaksin's lawyer, Noppadol Pattama, said that the committee's decision had pushed the billionaire into a corner.

"We can no longer retreat, so we have to fight," he told journalists. "He has been unfairly treated, so he will return to Thailand sooner than his original plan."

He said Mr Thaksin would decide when to return in the next few days.

The former prime minister is reported to be involved in a bid to buy English Premier League club Manchester City and it is not clear what effect the asset freeze would have on this.

Since the coup in September 2006, Thailand's military rulers have taken measures to curtail Mr Thaksin's influence.

Last month, he was banned from political office for five years and his popular Thai Rak Thai party ordered dissolved after a tribunal found it guilty of violating electoral laws.

But the move has sparked demonstrations from his supporters, with a number of protests in the capital, Bangkok.

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