December 25, 2015 / 7:58 AM / 2 years ago

Fugitive ex-Thai PM Thaksin warns on economy

Former Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra gestures before he meets his supporters during the last day of the Khmer-Thai New Year at the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap province April 15, 2012. REUTERS/Samrang Pring/Files

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra told Thais on Friday to have “the strength to pass obstacles” and warned about the economy which has been struggling since a 2014 coup.

Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail sentence handed down for graft in 2008, has kept messages to the public to a minimum since the military toppled the remnants of the government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, last year.

Since seizing power, the government has struggled to revive Thailand’s export-dependent economy, something some analysts say could prove destabilising for the junta, or National Council for Peace and Order.

Despite announcing big-spending on road and railway projects, domestic demand remains weak and record-high household debt is hurting Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

“This New Year I want to wish all things holy to my brothers and sisters I want you to have the strength to pass obstacles because next year the economy is not that good for the whole world and for Thailand,” Thaksin said in a voice recording posted on son Panthongtae Shinawatra’s Facebook page.

“But I believe that with every bad situation there are starting to be opportunities and I want you to see them.”

Thailand’s central bank on Friday revised its 2015 GDP growth figure up from 2.7 to 2.8 percent but said it expects zero growth for Thai exports in 2016.

The military ousted Thaksin in 2006, exacerbating a sharp divide between his supporters and the royalist-military establishment.

More than a decade of on-off political conflict has seen violent street protests from both Thaksin supporters and their opponents.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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