[JURIST] Interim Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official profile; BBC profile] Tuesday invited his ousted predecessor to return to Thailand to challenge allegations made against him and the recent seizure of $1.5 billion in assets [JURIST reports] amassed from the sale of the telecommunication company he founded in the 1980s. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been in exile ever since a September military coup [JURIST report]. Earlier, military leaders had warned Thaksin to stay out of the country until a general election, which is planned for December. Chulanont said that Thaksin's safety was personally guaranteed and that he should return within 60 days to fight the seizing of his assets.
While Thaksin's lawyer said in November that Thaksin was ready to face charges of corruption [JURIST report] that have been levied against him, he told reporters in Bangkok Tuesday that in light of the freezing of his assets, Thaksin "will return to Thailand sooner than his original plan." Some Thai commentators say that the asset seizure is a political move designed to prevent Thaksin from funding forces opposed to the coup. Protests by Thaksin supporters have grown [JURIST report] in recent weeks, with one last weekend drawing approximately 10,000 people. Reuters has more.