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Deposed Thai plans a return

After supporters' election triumph, he said he wanted to be "a normal citizen," not a politician.

BANGKOK, Thailand - Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday he was planning to return home from exile after his supporters' victory in parliamentary elections, sparking fears of more political conflict in Thailand.

Thaksin, whom the military ousted in a bloodless coup last year, said in Hong Kong that he would "explore options" for a return between mid-February and April but would not try to reclaim a 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," said Thaksin, who is legally barred from holding office. "Enough is enough for politics."

If asked, he said, 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, millions of his countrymen would welcome Shinawatra home. But the populist would also find numerous, possibly insurmountable, hurdles if he tried to return to political power.

He faces 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 important, 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, plus elite bureaucrats and businesspeople, the urban middle class, and powerful figures in the Royal Palace.