By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday accused the junta of bullying him over a $500 million tax bill and said it should count him out of reconciliation efforts.
Thaksin has lived in exile since being overthrown in 2006, but his populist movement remains at the heart of political division in Thailand. The army seized power from a government led by his sister in 2014 in the name of ending turmoil.
Thaksin’s rare public comments, made in a Facebook post, came days after the Thai revenue department sent him a 17 billion baht ($500 million) tax bill over the sale of shares in a telecoms company more than a decade ago.
Thaksin said it was the latest example of him and his family being “blamed and bullied”.
“For the reconciliation process, I urge every side to please remove me from the equation,” Thaksin said. “Those in power also shouldn’t use miracles and go out of their way just to get rid of me.”
A government spokesman said Thaksin had not been bullied, but had not been expected to play a part in the reconciliation process set up ahead of elections, which could happen next year.
“We’re only discussing the present and the future,” Sansern Kaewkamnerd told Reuters.
The reconciliation process, and the accession of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn last year, had stirred speculation in Thailand of a possible deal with Thaksin, who lives in exile to escape corruption charges he says are politically motivated.
Thailand is divided between his supporters in the poorer north and northeast and the traditional royalist-military establishment in the capital and the south.
In the Facebook post, Thaksin said he rejected attempts to link him to anti-monarchy movements. Insulting the monarchy carries a long jail sentence in Thailand.
“I would like to serve the nation, religion, and the monarchy, which I revere and worship, until my life ends, wherever I am on this Earth,” he said.
(Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)