BANGKOK - Deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday he was planning to return home from exile following his supporters' victory in parliamentary elections, sparking fears more political conflict in Thailand.
Thaksin, who was ousted by the military in a bloodless coup last year, told reporters in Hong Kong that he will "explore options" for a comeback between mid-February and April but will not try to return to political office.
Instead, he said, he may advise the party that won Sunday's elections on a pledge to bring him back.
"I really want to go back as a normal citizen. Enough is enough for politics," said Thaksin, who is legally barred from holding office.
He said that, if asked, he would be willing to act as a political adviser to the People's Power Party - made up of his supporters and political allies.
The 58-year-old former telecom tycoon has announced past retirements from politics only to reenter the fray.
Judging from the election results, Shinawatra would be welcomed home by millions of his countrymen. But the populist would also face numerous, possibly insurmountable hurdles if he attempts to return to political power.
He faces an array of charges involving allegations of massive corruption during his six years in office, and could be arrested when he lands in Bangkok. The five-year ban on political activity imposed on him and 110 others from his party would have to be overturned.
Perhaps most importantly, his enemies wield far more power than the rural masses he successfully wooed with cheap credit and health care and who endorsed his proxy party in the recent balloting. The Election Commission said 74.45 percent of the 45 million eligible voters cast ballots - a Thai record.
Among his opponents are the generals who overthrew him, as well as elite bureaucrats and businessmen, the urban middle class, and powerful figures in the Royal Palace.
The leader of the PPP's chief rival Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, warned that Thaksin should not interfere in the country's political or judicial system.
"In that case, the country might face rifts and conflicts, while nobody wants another military coup," he said.
Thaksin was ousted on Sept. 19, 2006.
He was abroad during the coup and has since lived in exile, mostly in London.
Under the interim military-installed government that succeeded Thaksin, his foes changed the constitution to limit big parties' influence and sought to demonize him as a corrupt destroyer of democracy.
Courts dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party, and he has been charged with corruption-related crimes.