Thailand is on alert for civil unrest as loyal fans of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra weighed a court ruling that seized more than half his $A2.
3bn fortune a day earlier.
Some 150 riot police stood guard outside the country’s top court that on Friday stripped the fugitive tycoon of the money they said he had accumulated by abusing his power as prime minister.
Thousands of other security personnel manned checkpoints and key buildings around Bangkok despite commentators saying the court’s verdict was an apparant compromise aimed at avoiding violence.
“We are ready for any situation,” said senior police officer Weerawith Chanchamroen.
After reading out a seven-hour verdict broadcast on national television and radio, the judges said the government should seize $A1.57bn of the assets from the sale of Thaksin’s telecoms firm.
But they said the twice-elected former leader, who was removed from office in a coup in 2006, could hold on to the money he had already accumulated before taking office in 2001.
Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption at home, said in a video speech from exile in Dubai that he was the “political martyr” of a conspiracy to remove him from politics.
“This case is very political… The ruling will be a joke for the world,” he said.
‘Red Shirts’ vow protests
Thaksin’s supporters, dubbed the “Red Shirts” for the colour they wear, have vowed to press ahead with plans to rally from March 12 in Bangkok, but his political allies Saturday promised peaceful action.
“We can protest but peacefully. It’s not only the duty of the party but everyone to fight for justice,” said Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, chairman of the Thaksin-allied Puea Thai party.
Red Shirt riots at an Asian summit and in Bangkok in April 2009 left two people dead and scores injured.
PM urges calm
Deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban urged the Thai public to be on alert for trouble.
“I ask the people to help keep an eye on the situation. If you see anything that seems unusual, please tell the authorities,” he told reporters Friday.
Thousands of troops and police were deployed across the country in the build-up to Friday’s verdict.
The government had applied for the seizure of the proceeds from the sale of shares owned by Thaksin and his family in his Shin Corp telecoms giant, which was bought by Singapore-based Temasek holdings in January 2006.
The judges said in the ruling that Thaksin had used his power to benefit Shin Corp and illegally hid his ownership of the shares, among other graft charges.
The case goes to the heart of societal rifts that have dogged Thailand since the coup.
The Red Shirts, largely from Thaksin’s stronghold in Thailand’s impoverished north and northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of being an unelected elite.
The tycoon’s opponents in the Bangkok-based circles around the palace, military and bureaucracy accuse Thaksin of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand’s widely revered monarchy.