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Thaksin returns to Thailand after 17 months of exile
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13:29, February 28, 2008

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Thailand's Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived Thursday morning at the Bangkok's international airport, wrapping up 17 months of self-exile abroad since a bloodless military coup ousted his administration.

The Thai International Airways flight boarding Thaksin -- TG 603 from Hong Kong, China landed at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airportat around 9:45 a.m. (0245GMT), with thousands of supporters waiting and hailing excitedly but peacefully outside the airport's VIP rooms area to welcome the ex-premier amid tightened security.

Thaksin had said he came back to fight a series of corruption and abuse of power allegations against him and his family in court, and would quit politics forever.

The ex-premier was accompanied on board by his son Panthongtae Shinawatra and some 70 supporters, including former officials of Thaksin-founded, now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party, the former ruling party which was dissolved after the Sept. 19 coup in 2006 toppled Thaksin's government.

Thaksin was welcomed by thousands of supporters, who were hailing "Thaksin, Thaksin" and raising banners reading "We Love Thaksin" and "Thaksin Welcome Home." An army of reporters had been waiting outside the VIP lounge of the airport, some of them stationed since Wednesday night, to catch the first glimpse of the ex-premier who touched this soil after more than one-year's absence.

Some of the supporters had traveled to Bangkok from Thailand's northern and northeastern provinces, where the majority poor has constituted the strongest voter base for Thaksin and the former TRT and helped it win two landslide election victories on 2001 and 2005.

Also receiving Thaksin were his wife and two daughters, Interior Minister Chalerm Yubambrung, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, Transport Minister Santi Prompat, Justice Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

After stepping out of the VIP room around 10:10 a.m. (0310GMT),Thaksin prostrated and kissed the ground to pay respect to his motherland, before greeting his supporters with a "wai," the way to greet people in Thai tradition by putting the palms together.

After the brief greeting without making any remarks, Thaksin got into his car and headed to the Supreme Court in downtown Bangkok, which earlier issued arrest warrants for him and his wife Pojaman for failing to appear at a hearing on a controversial land purchase deal against the couple.

Thaksin is also expected to report himself to the Department of Special Investigation, where he faces charges of concealing assets in a company.

He will hold a press conference at Bangkok's Peninsula Hotel, where he would reside with his family, Thursday afternoon.

Since the coup, which took place when Thaksin was attending the United Nations Assembly in New York, the telecom-tycoon-turned-politician has been traveling around the world in a self-exile life, mostly residing in Britain, where he owned a house in London and bought the Manchester City Football Club.

Source: Xinhua

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