The Thai Supreme Court [official website, in Thai] issued an arrest warrant Thursday for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The warrant was issued [AFP report] following his failure to appear before the court in an ongoing trial on five criminal charges including abuse of power and violation of banking regulations at the state-owned Krung Thai Bank. Thaksin and the bank executives are accused of abusing their authority to lend 11.58 billion baht (USD $377 million) to companies which were known to have been in dire financial conditions. Thaksin was removed from power during a 2006 military coup and has been in self-exile abroad since 2008 following a conviction [JURIST reports] on a corruption charge which he claims was politically motivated.
Thailand's political system has remained unstable following the coup that ousted Thaksin in 2006, and, despite his absence from the nation, he remains a polarizing political force within the country. In February 2011 seven leaders of Thailand's "red-shirt" [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] movement, which are formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship and are staunchly pro-Thaksin, were released on bail [JURIST report]. They had been arrested on terrorism charges stemming from their involvement in the 2010 anti-government protests [JURIST news archive] in Bangkok. In January 2011 members of the movement also petitioned the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to launch a preliminary investigation [JURIST report] into whether the government committed crimes against humanity during those protests. The Constitutional Court of Thailand ordered that 46.4 billion baht (USD $1.4 billion) of Thaksin's fortune be seized [JURIST report] in Februrary 2010, a ruling that led to violent protests that took place in Bangkok last spring.