• Reuters

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A Thai court Monday issued an arrest warrant for fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after he failed to turn up for a defamation case filed against him by the army.

The ruling would appear to mean little as Thaksin lives abroad anyway to avoid a jail sentence handed down in 2008 for graft, but it is another setback for the former telecoms tycoon with some seeing it as the latest attempt to ensure he never returns to power.

Three governments backed by Thaksin have been forced to step down by the courts or military since 2006.

Thaksin is accused of defaming the military during interviews given to a South Korean newspaper in May that were later posted on YouTube.

In rare comments to foreign media, Thaksin accused the military of being part of a conspiracy that overthrew Thaksin’s sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014, days before a bloodless military coup.

“The accused did not come to the meeting so a warrant was issued as the court saw he was not in the country even though an appointment was made for the first hearing,” Maj. Gen. Sarayuth Klinmahom, director of the Office of the Judge-Advocate of the Royal Thai Army, told reporters.

Thaksin himself was ousted by the army in 2006. Since then, the country has been divided between his supporters and the Bangkok-based elite which sees him as a threat to the old royalist-military establishment.

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