Self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he is likely to return to Thailand this year.
Ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra waves to his supporters yesterday as he makes his way to a reception to give a talk to Lao businessmen at a hotel in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
"With your support, I'm likely to return home this year," he said yesterday in a video address from Laos.
"You probably think I've said often I'll come home. If I can't, please come to get me," he said.
An estimated 2,000 people gathered in Nong Khai, just across the border, to hear the ex-leader speak.
"I would like to return to Thailand, would like all of you to receive me at an airport and spend a night in Nong Khai," he added.
Earlier, he insisted he was not in conflict with Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda, and the pair could meet for reconciliation talks.
He also thanked the Lao government for looking after his security following rumours of an assassination plot.
Chartthaipattana Party chief adviser Maj Gen Sanan Kachornprasart earlier floated the idea of having a neutral person broker talks between Thaksin and Gen Prem, perceived to be political foes.
Speaking after arriving in Laos yesterday, Thaksin said he did not see himself as Gen Prem's opponent. "I can talk with anybody," he said when asked if he could enter dialogue with his political opponents.
Thaksin said he did not lay down any conditions and was ready to help bring about national reconciliation.
Thaksin denied he planned to enter Thailand during this week's Songkran festival.
Earlier Kwanchai Praipana, red shirt leader in Udon Thani, said he would escort Thaksin across the border back to Thailand.
The Lao government changed Thaksin's arrival schedule yesterday for safety reasons.
Mr Kwanchai said Thaksin's private plane was scheduled to arrive at Vientiane's Wattay airport at 11.30am but it landed at a Lao military airport instead.
His plane was diverted following reports of a plot to assassinate Thaksin, and the Lao government had to step up security for him, Mr Kwanchai said.
The move left a large crowd waiting for him at Wattay airport disappointed. The crowd included red shirts, foreign reporters and Pheu Thai Party members.
" I'd like to thank the Lao government for providing security," Thaksin said. "I managed to escape four assassination attempts thanks to my good luck and a good luang por [an amulet].
"But I won't let my guard down. God may think I am still useful and so lets me live on."
At 3pm Thaksin went to Wat Si Muang temple in Vientiane. He conducted a brief ceremony for good luck and met with about 200 Thai supporters there.
Later Thaksin went to Don Chan Palace Hotel to give a lecture to Lao businessmen.
Chutimaporn Chuaychupongpan, a red shirt leader in Surin, said red shirts would leave Surin on Saturday to meet Thaksin in Cambodia, his next stop.