Thaksin to get warm welcome in Laos

2012-03-29 13:02

Bangkok - Fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is to be greeted by an estimated 50 000 supporters when he visits Laos during the Thai New Year holiday next month, news reports said on Thursday.

Thaksin, who was overthrown in a 2006 coup and fled the country in 2008 to escape a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power, is scheduled to visit Laos and Cambodia during Songkran, the traditional New Year celebration.

Nisit Sinthuphrai, a leader of the so-called red-shirt movement working to bring Thaksin home, was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying about 50 000 Thaksin backers would gather at a sports stadium in the north-eastern Thai province of Nong Khai on April 11 and then cross the Mekong River to the Lao capital, Vientiane, the next morning.

Another 10 000 Thaksin supporters were expected to greet their leader when he visits the Cambodian city of Siem Reap on April 14-15.

Thaksin is a divisive figure in Thailand, both loathed and loved. The red shirts held protests in Bangkok in 2010 against the then-government and in support of Thaksin, which led to a military crackdown and an end to the demonstrations in a wave of gunfire, looting and arson. Ninety-two people died.

Thaksin's sister Yingluck was elected Thailand's first female prime minister last year. Thaksin has voiced optimism that he would be able to return to Thailand by the end of this year while avoiding his prison sentence.

Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar all celebrate their traditional New Year April 13-15.