'Set up'

Thaksin, 60, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup after winning two national elections by huge margins, said the burning of buildings in the aftermath of last week's military crackdown on the red shirts - many of whom are his supporters - was a "set up".


Families of those killed in clashes between military and red shirts seek answers

"The big fire ... must be the work of [a] professional. As an ex-police [officer], I can assure you that this is a well planned and professionally done," he said, adding that it was "definitely" not the work of red shirts.

Thaksin said he did not know if the red shirt rebellion was over, but said he had never supported violence.

"In my mind, I always advocate ... peaceful protest," he told ABC.

Speaking separately to Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, again by phone and from an undisclosed location, he said reconciliation in his home country was "very far away".

He said he was "ready to compromise", but charged that the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, was more interested in persecuting its political opponents than in bringing the deadly political crisis to a close.

Government blamed

"Those [red shirts] who survived are very angry. It's not a good sign. I am very worried... I worry about the anger and I worry the government has cornered them instead of talking to them," he said.

in depth
  Back to business
  Clean-up in Bangkok
  Red shirts go underground
  Battle in Bangkok
  Inside Story: Thai battle
  Thailand: Warring colours
  101 East: The red shirts
  Thailand's TV wars
   Trouble in Thailand
  Thaksin and the red shirts
  Crackdown in Thailand

He accused the government - which he repeatedly described as a "junta" - of hunting down his supporters and detaining them without charge even after they had ceased their protest and returned home.

"The government uses the word reconciliation, then creates more conflict," he said.

In Bangkok, which remains under nightly curfews as part of efforts to prevent fresh violence, Thaksin's lawyers filed an appeal on Wednesday against the terrorism warrant, saying red shirt leaders would testify that he never encouraged violence.

Korn Chatikavanij, Thailand's finance minister, said the government was considering suing Thaksin and other red shirt supporters to recover some of the $3bn the country's economy is estimated to have lost due to the protests, which paralysed Bangkok's prime commercial district for weeks.

Despite having been convicted in absentia on corruption charges two years ago, Thaksin continues to move around the world relatively freely.

He has reportedly spent a lot of time in Dubai, but has taken up citizenship in Montenegro and reportedly also has a Nicaraguan passport.

Thaksin would only tell the Globe and Mail on Wednesday that he was "in Europe" and would not return to Thailand unless the political situation changed significantly.

"During my premiership, they tried to assassinate me four times," he told the Canadian paper. "If I go back now, they will definitely try to assassinate me. All my supporters say, 'Please, don't come back now. They will kill you'."