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Thaksin cancels speech from exile

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Thaksin Shinawatra (file image)
Mr Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has cancelled a planned speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong.

The move came after apparent diplomatic pressure from the Thai government, which announced it would seek his extradition.

Mr Thaksin is still an influential figure in Thailand.

But he is finding it increasingly difficult to find countries that will allow him work from their territory.

Mr Thaksin has been living in exile for most of the two and half years since he was deposed by a coup.

He was widely expected to use the speech to criticize the current government, which replaced one run by his allies last December.

Free to speak?

Hong Kong has no extradition treaty with Thailand, and has been a favourite destination for the former prime minister since his ouster by a coup in 2006.

So there was no apparent risk for Mr Thaksin in giving his planned address today to the FCC in Hong Kong.

He has given speeches from the territory before via video-link to his supporters here in Thailand.

But he has now cancelled the address, says his spokesman, to avoid creating any awkwardness for the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

This follows a statement by the government here that it would ask for China's help in getting Mr Thaksin sent back to Thailand - he was convicted last year in absentia of abusing his power and given a two-year prison sentence.

Mr Thaksin needs to be careful not to offend potential places of sanctuary; he lost his preferred home abroad four months ago when the British authorities cancelled his visa.

His Thai diplomatic passport, a privilege offered to all former prime ministers, was revoked in December.

Last month he was spotted in Nicaragua in talks with President Daniel Ortega over possible investments there; a mark of desperation perhaps.

Even some of his closest allies here acknowledge that his influence in the party he once ran, now the main opposition, is waning.

They still depend on him for most of their funding, but they say they are beginning to look to a future without Mr Thaksin as their leader.

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