Thaksin: Thai charter change 'not for my return'

BANGKOK - Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has denied that a move by his political allies to amend the kingdom's constitution is aimed at clearing the way for his return.

"I have my own way of getting back home without having to rewrite the charter to favour me," Thaksin said in an interview with the Bangkok Post English-language daily from his base in Dubai.

Thaksin, who remains a hugely divisive figure, was toppled by royalist generals in 2006 and lives overseas to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption that he contends is politically motivated.

Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister last year after a resounding election victory by his political allies.

Her government last month pushed through parliament legislation to establish a panel to rewrite the 2007 constitution, drafted by backers of the coup that toppled Thaksin.

Her administration has not yet said what changes it wants to see, but the opposition Democrats accuse her Puea Thai party of seeking to allow Thaksin to return without serving his jail term.

The opposition has also asked the government not to change the status of the monarchy.

Thaksin, however, denied there was a plan to alter the law that makes it an offence, punishable by 15 years in prison for each count, to criticise the royal family.

"The Puea Thai Party has made it clear that the section concerning the monarchy status will stay intact," the Bangkok Post quoted him as saying.

Thaksin remains a much-loved figure among many poor Thais.

But his return would anger his foes in the Bangkok-based elites in military, palace and bureaucratic circles and could spark further turmoil after a series of protests by the kingdom's rival political factions in recent years.

Mass rallies by Thaksin's supporters in the Thai capital in 2010 descended into the kingdom's worst political violence in decades, with more than 90 people - mostly civilians - killed in a military crackdown.

In October last year Yingluck's government gave Thaksin his passport back, despite strong opposition from his political opponents.

Thaksin, however, has repeatedly played down talk of his return.

"For me, getting back home or not is not my main concern. I am happy enough living abroad," he said in the interview.