The judges also ruled that none of the Democrat's executives will be barred from politics.

Thailand’s senior military leaders, who were behind a coup that removed Thaksin from power last year, were prepared for trouble on Wednesday in view of the court verdicts and accordingly deployed extra security.

Tight security

A Bangkok police spokesman said 1,800 uniformed, riot and plain-clothes police were on the streets around the court with orders to evacuate the judges if the situation turned ugly after the rulings.

The military leaders and temporary administration also had 13,000 "emergency" police and troops "ready to come out if things escalate", Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, a military spokesman, said.

Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party is also facing fraud charges  and could be dissolved.

Thaksin, who is living in exile in London, and other top members of his party could be banned from politics for five years.

The verdict was met with joy by
supporters of the Democrats [AFP]

Few doubt the generals, who say they staged last September's coup to prevent violence as a street campaign against him grew, want Thaksin out of politics ahead of a general election promised in December.

However, banning the telecommunications billionaire would anger millions of his supporters in the countryside who gave him two election landslide victories and still see him as the only politician who really cares about them.