Thaksin honours King, attacks opponents on TV fight night

Deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared on state-run Channel 11 TV last night, presiding over a muay Thai event commemorating His Majesty the King's 85th birthday.

Ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appears in a live broadcast on Channel 11 as he presides over a Thai boxing contest in Macau.

The tournament, titled Muay Thai Warriors, was broadcast live from a makeshift area in a hotel in Macau.

It was Thaksin's first appearance on the state-run television station since he and his administration were toppled in the Sept 19, 2006, military coup.

The event was also broadcast on the Asia Update satellite television station, which is affiliated to the red-shirt movement.

Thaksin led the organising committee and the audience in the arena to light candles and sing in honour of His Majesty before presiding over the first match.

Prior to his opening speech, Thaksin said he felt overwhelmed as he watched a television broadcast of the monarch's public birthday address on Dec 5 at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.

The ex-prime minister also took the opportunity to defend himself against his 2008 abuse of power and graft convictions, and lashed out at the 2006 coup-makers who toppled his administration.

Thaksin said the Dec 5 event reminded him of June 9, 2006, when he delivered a speech as prime minister to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the King's ascension to the throne.

"Even though six years have passed, nothing has changed. His Majesty remains the heart and soul of the nation," he said.

"Even though I was relieved from duty as the result of a coup which led to my convictions and my self-exile, I have never relinquished my loyalty [to the King]," he said.

Thaksin said his political opponents continued to accuse him of being an anti-monarchist.

He insisted an audio clip which was played during an anti-government rally by the Pitak Siam group on Nov 24 had been doctored to discredit him.

Thaksin was referring to a clip which Pitak Siam claimed was the voice of Thaksin insulting the monarchy.

At the end of the speech, Thaksin asked the audience to join him in chanting "Long Live the King!"

Appearing close to him during the broadcast were Chaisit Shinawatra, president of the World Professional Muay Thai Federation and Surasit Sangkhapong, the former chief of the Government Lottery Office.

Gen Chaisit, a cousin of Thaksin, is the chairman of the organising committee of Muay Thai Warriors.

Thaksin's opponents criticised the broadcast and the Public Relations Department, which runs the Channel 11 station.

They said that as Thaksin had been convicted of abuse of authority, the state agency should not have allowed him to speak during the live broadcast.

Related search: Thaksin, politics, His Majesty the King, Macau, Thailand, boxing