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A Thai court issued arrest warrants yesterday for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife over their alleged violations of stock-trading laws.

It is the second set of warrants issued in the past month against Thaksin, who has been living abroad since he was ousted in a bloodless coup almost a year ago. The other case involved conflict of interest related to the sale of Bangkok real estate.

Sunai Manomaiudom, director-general of the Department of Special Investigation, said the Bangkok Criminal Court had issued the warrant at his agency's request.

Thaksin has denied all allegations against him, and has said he will not return to Thailand until after new elections are held at the end of this year.

Thaksin was deposed last September after the country fell into a political crisis due to mass demonstrations demanding he step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power.

He became a billionaire in the telecommunications sector before entering politics and serving as prime minister since 2001. A controversial business deal by his family, the sale early last year of its telecommunications company Shin Corp to a Singapore state investment company, was a major cause of public discontent.

The new warrants for Thaksin and his wife, Pojamarn, involve charges of violating regulations requiring disclosure of corporate information to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Pichit Chuenban, a lawyer for Thaksin's family, said he would inform the former prime minister of yesterday's court action, and advise him not to return to fight the case for the time being "because the situation in the country is not normal."

"We think he should return only after we have an elected government," Pichit said. Thailand is currently administered by an interim civilian government, but a military council exercises power behind the scenes and is intensely hostile toward Thaksin.

Sunai had earlier said Thaksin and other family members controlled nearly 80 percent of SC Asset, a real estate company, both directly and through nominee companies, and sold their interests to outside parties last year.

They are charged with violating disclosure rules, both by failing to report their ownership and failing to report the sale of shares.

Each violation of the exchange's regulations carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of US$15,500.

Sunai said Thaksin is also suspected of violating a law on Cabinet members holding company shares, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a US$31,000 fine.


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