His return was secured by Thailand's newly-elected leader, Samak Sundaravej, whose People Power Party (PPP) is regarded as a proxy for Thaksin.

 

The PPP, comprising mostly of Thaksin allies, won nationwide elections in December and forms the core of Thailand's new six-party coalition government.

 

Thaksin and his wife Pojaman face corruption and conflict of interest charges from when he was prime minister.

 

Thaksin also faces separate charges of concealing assets.

 

His wife returned to Thailand last month and is currently on bail after being formally charged.

 

Thaksin, seen with his wife Pojaman, has lived
in exile since the 2006 coup [GALLO/GETTY]
Senior officials from the PPP are expected to be at Bangkok airport to welcome Thaksin as he returns on Thursday – as are court officials who will read corruption charges to him.

 

The charges were brought by Thailand's previous military government.

 

Chalerm Yoobambrung, the country's newly-appointed interior minister and a long-time Thaksin ally, said he will personally welcome the former prime minister with open arms.

 

"I will be there as the old friend ... who promised voters that if they chose the People Power Party we would bring Thaksin back with full honours."

 

Warning

 

On Tuesday Samak Sundaravej, the Thai prime minister, warned activists not to take to the streets during Thaksin's return.

 

A spokesman for Samak quoted him as saying: "It's normal that he must defend himself in the court and my government will not interfere."

 

Thai officials have said that protesters could be charged with obstruction of justice if they try to prevent Thaksin from reporting to court.

 

Critics fear Thaksin's homecoming could plunge the country into another political crisis.

 

His opponents have threatened to mobilise protesters and stage demonstrations if the new government tries to intervene in the legal process against him.

 

Thaksin and his wife each face up to 13 years in jail over two corruption charges alleging she used her husband's political influence to buy prime Bangkok property from a government agency at about one third of its estimated value.

 

Thaksin denies any abuse of power.

 

The couple also faces separate charges of making fraudulent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the 2003 listing of a property company.

 

Following the coup, Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai [Thais Love Thais] party was disbanded for electoral fraud and more than 100 senior party officials including him were banned from politics for five years.