Thaksin's trial to begin without him
Without the defendant showing up, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions agreed Tuesday to hear testimonies from six plaintiff witnesses in the case against fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra over his role in the 2003 Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) scandal.
The testimonies were requested by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which is acting as the plaintiff. Meanwhile, nobody from the defendants' side came to the court.
The court will convene on Friday, and then again on Aug 14 and 21 to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the trial in his absence.
On June 22 the court issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin after the ex-premier failed to show up at the first court hearing in the TPI case.
He is accused of malfeasance over his approval of a Finance Ministry proposal to manage a TPI rehabilitation plan in 2003.
Thaksin allegedly committed malfeasance when he endorsed the ministry's proposal, knowing that the ministry had no authority to serve as an administrator or manage the assets of a private company.
The lawsuit in the TPI case was filed with the court on May 7, eight years after the NACC accused Thaksin of malfeasance.
The case was shelved when he fled the country in August 2008 but subsequently revived following the enactment of a new law on criminal procedures for political office-holders that took effect on Sept 29 last year.
The court also resolved that if Thaksin cannot be apprehended and brought to trial within one month, the trial can proceed in his absence. According to the court, the fugitive former premier has the right to appoint a lawyer to act on his behalf.
The TPI went bankrupt soon after the 1997 economic crisis and entered a court-ordered rehabilitation programme.
Former finance minister Suchart Jaovisidha was also implicated, but the charge against him was dropped as he had already passed away.
The TPI case is the seventh lodged against the former prime minister after he was ousted from power in a 2006 coup. He now lives in self-imposed exile overseas and has not returned to answer the charges.
According to the lawsuit, the Finance Ministry had no authority to act as an administrator of a rehabilitation plan under a 2001 law on the reorganisation of ministries and departments.