August 30, 2007 3:00 am

Observer: War of attrition

Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's exiled former prime minister, has been under pressure from the military-installed government since a coup drove him from power. Neither the press nor the courts have let up on him since he left the country about a year ago.

He has been charged with abuse of power in connection with his wife's purchase of prime Bangkok real estate from a central bank-managed fund. Anti-graft investigators have also seized most of the $1.9bn his family earned from the sale of Shin Corp, their telecommunications empire.

Thaksin, however, is fighting fire with a shower of libel lawsuits.

In the latest, he is seeking Bt1.5bn in damages from the Asset Examinations Committee over interviews with the media suggesting improprieties in a Bt4bn loan by Thaksin's government to Burma's military rulers to pay for services from Shin Corp-affiliated companies. He has also sued a top justice ministry official for suggesting Thaksin was ultimately responsible for the deaths of more than 2,500 people during a bloody three months' "war on drugs" in early 2003. Anti-graft investigators have remained stoical, while authorities suggest the suits are intended simply to "frighten" officials. But the tactic may be working: public allegations against the former premier have tapered off notably in recent weeks.

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